According to Macon County Sheriff Mark Gammons, the three adult suspects were arrested on Friday, April 22, after officers conducted a stake-out at a residence the thieves were reported to have been scoping out.
Detective Shane Gregory pulled the trio over after they attempted to steal a vehicle at the residence and suspects James Wright, age 37, Zachary Austin, age 19, and Dustin Wright, age 23, were arrested on charges of criminal trespassing and conspiracy: criminal (felony). James Wright was also charged with driving on a suspended license and possession of a schedule II drug after officers found methamphetamine in his possession.
Shortly after their arrests, around 12:15 a.m. on Saturday morning, another member of their crew - a 17-year-old male - was taken into custody after being pulled over in a stolen vehicle by Sergeant Josh Boles.
Moments later Deputy Cody Murphy attempted to pull over another vehicle that had been reported stolen, but the 16-year-old male driver would not stop.
The juvenile suspect proceeded to lead authorities on a 40-mile, high speed chase through Lafayette, Westmoreland and Portland, attempting to crash into vehicles driven by Sheriff Gammons and Macon County Sheriff’s Department detectives.
The Lafayette Police Department, the Westmoreland Police Department, the Sumner County Sheriff’s Office, and the Portland Police Department also got involved as the chase ensued.
A few miles from the Portland city limits, Sumner County authorities activated spike strips across the road, which deflated the suspect’s tires. In a final effort to flee police, the juvenile turned down a side road and struck a tree before finally coming to a stop.
After he was detained, it was discovered that he was in possession of a firearm.
Authorities later learned that the juvenile had previously stolen a box truck and driven it through a house on Cave Hollow Road.
He was charged with multiple counts of vandalism, multiple counts of felony theft, reckless endangerment, three counts of aggravated assault and arson.
The five suspects arrested are said to be part of a vehicle theft ring.
While some of the stolen vehicles were recovered, three were set on fire and left in various locations to burn. The damage caused by these individuals is estimated to be valued around $250,000.
The motive for these thefts? Authorities believe they simply enjoyed the thrill of committing the crimes and did it for the adrenaline rush.
Sheriff Gammons stated that all five of the suspects lived within a five mile radius of the locations they stole vehicles from.
“I would like to thank the Lafayette Police Department, the Westmoreland Police Department, the Sumner County Sheriff’s Department and the Portland Police Department for their assistance,” stated Sheriff Gammons. “A special thank you to my department for the hard work they put into this investigation to catch the individuals responsible for these crimes.”
This investigation is ongoing and additional charges are pending.
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