October 4, 2013

Tracking dog helps nab suspect following chase

Rachel Brown

— A chase that started in Murray County Wednesday afternoon finally ended in Tennessee when a Murray County Sheriff’s Office deputy brought her tracking dog up to a wooded area where the suspect was hiding and found him, officials said.

Thomas Larry Burns, 29, of 45 Deer Park Drive, Chatsworth, was charged by the Bradley County Sheriff’s Office in Tennessee on Wednesday with felony evading, felony reckless endangerment of an officer and five other counts of felony reckless endangerment. The Georgia State Patrol is expected to press additional charges. Burns was also wanted in Whitfield County for violating his probation.

Officials said the chase started in Murray County at about 1 p.m. when a Georgia State Patrol trooper spotted Burns on Red Cut Road traveling far above the posted speed limit. When the trooper tried to stop Burns, Burns took off, officials said.

That eventually led to a chase that wove through Bradley and Polk counties in Tennessee and was headed back to Murray County at one point. In addition to Murray County and state patrol officers, responders from the two Tennessee counties were also part of the chase at different times.

Bradley sheriff’s office spokesman Bob Gault said at one point Burns sped through a construction zone, putting the workers at risk. No one was hurt.

Burns allegedly tried to run a Murray deputy not originally involved in the chase off the road, officials said. Gault said the deputy was working on something else when he saw Burns in his rearview mirror, radioed to get more information and tried to pull Burns over once he learned what was going on. That’s when, Gault said, Burns tried unsuccessfully to run the deputy off the road. No one was hurt then either.

Murray County Sheriff’s Office Chief Deputy Greg Fowler said deputies twice put out stop sticks to try to puncture Burns’ tires, but Burns evaded them each time.

Finally, Fowler said, Burns jumped a ditch with his vehicle, landed in a field off Davis Road in Bradley County and got out and ran into the woods. Law enforcement officers surrounded the area and began calling for a tracking dog. Fowler said officials had planned to use an animal from Tennessee, but one wasn’t immediately available. So Murray County Deputy Rena Coffey, who was off duty at the time, was called in to bring her personal dog to the scene. Fowler said officers used the dog to track Burns for close to a mile before they found him, lying down. Officials said he surrendered without incident, roughly two hours after he originally refused to stop for the state trooper.

Without a dog, the search might not have ended the way it did.

“It would have been very difficult because it was a wooded area,” Fowler said. “We would have had to do a grid search and just put people walking.”