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Johnson arrested after high-speed chase with child in truck

Ronnie Patrick Johnson (inset) was arrested Feb. 25 after a 2-part pursuit.  The tire tracks mark where a police officer swerved after Johnson reportedly slammed on his brakes, on US 127 near Rock Creek Road.

Feb. 26, 2019 – A police pursuit that started in Dunlap Monday night ended in Grundy County, and when officers arrested Ronnie Patrick Johnson, 38, of Dunlap, they found his 5-year-old son in the truck with him, shaken but unhurt.

The chase began at about 7 p.m., Feb. 25, when a Dunlap police officer saw a Chevy Silverado pickup truck illegally passing multiple vehicles on Rankin Avenue, near Walmart.

The officer initiated a traffic stop, and the truck pulled over near Mountain Valley Bank,” Dunlap Police Chief Clint Huth said today. “The driver of the truck, later identified as Johnson, exited the truck as the officer pulled in behind him. Johnson then reentered the vehicle and sped away northbound on Hwy. 127 at a high rate of speed.”

Near Rock Creek Road, Johnson reportedly slammed on the brakes, and the officer in pursuit had to swerve into the other lane to avoid a collision. Then the suspect sped up and rammed the front passenger side of the police car.

The officer tried to continue the pursuit, but could no longer drive the car because of the damage. At that point, both city police and Sequatchie County Sheriff's Department officers began searching for the truck.

About 8:30 p.m., a sheriff's deputy spotted the truck driving southbound on US 127. Initiating a traffic stop, he pulled the truck over at the Circle K gas station.

Johnson got out of the truck and brandished a handgun at the officer.

When he got out and brandished the weapon, he said he had his child in the truck with him,” Chief Huth said.

Then Johnson got back in the truck and took off again, headed southbound through the heart of Dunlap on Rankin Avenue.

The truck did not have an extended cab, so the child would have been on the seat next to his father, but officers could not see into the truck or tell if there was a child there.

Sometimes traveling at speeds in excess of 100 m.p.h., the truck led police on a wild chase into the south end of the county, causing Marion County officers to begin traveling in that direction, in case the pursuit came into their county.

Instead, Johnson drove out US 127 to John Burch and into the Hudlow Loop area, eventually running “through several people's yards and some fields,” according to Sequatchie County Sheriff's Detective Paul Howard. He collided with a Sheriff's Department vehicle in a field.

Chief Huth said from there, the suspect “drove through fences and back southbound onto Hwy. 28.”

From there, the chase went down West Valley Road, then up Daus Mountain Road and into Grundy County, where the Grundy County Sheriff's Department joined in pursuit.

As Johnson reportedly fled north on SR 399, back toward Sequatchie County, he lost control of the truck as he entered a curve. The truck left the roadway and struck a tree.

Officers immediately apprehended Johnson, who was found to have been in possession of a loaded pistol and shotgun,” Chief Huth said.

Officers also found Johnson's 5-year-old son in the cab of the truck, uninjured. Grundy County Emergency Medical personnel checked him out to make sure he was okay, Huth said.

There was no car seat,” he said. “I talked with the child, and he said he didn't even have a seat belt on.”

The little boy was shaken up, but uninjured.

We were really close to a house, and the people in that house came out,” Huth said. “Officers were leading the child away from everything, and the lady offered to stay with the kid for us. She developed a good rapport with the child, and that really helped us a lot, that lady stepping up for us.”

The child was handed over to his grandparents, who are now caring for him.

Tennessee Highway Patrol (THP) also was involved in the pursuit, and drew blood on the scene of the accident to determine if Johnson was impaired in any way.

Johnson was transported to the Sequatchie County Justice Center, where he awaits a bond hearing in General Sessions Court on March 4.

He stands charged with felony evading arrest, reckless endangerment of a child, 2 counts of aggravated assault with a weapon, and unlawful possession of a weapon by a felon.

At the time of his arrest, Johnson was on probation for pistol-whipping a man at the Kangaroo (now Circle K) in July 2016.

Altogether, around 10-12 vehicles from at least four different departments were involved in Monday night's pursuit, which ended about 9 p.m.