Roan Mountain man hits dead end at prison gates after pursuit

By Kathy Helms-Hughes
STAR STAFF
khughes@starhq.com

   A Roan Mountain man was arrested Monday by Carter County Sheriff's Department Deputy Brad Johnson following an extensive chase through the Roan Mountain community at speeds up to 98 mph. The pursuit came to a halt when the man hit a dead end at the prison gates on Old Railroad Grade.
   According to the incident report, Deputy Johnson was sitting in his cruiser at Carter County Bank on U.S. Highway 19E around 11:15 p.m. when he saw a vehicle driven by Travis E. McKinney, 23, 182 Ellis Hollow Road, run a stop sign, turn south onto 19E where it traveled about 50 yards before making a quick U-turn across the turning lane and northbound lane.
   Deputy Johnson got behind the 1995 Jeep Cherokee and turned on his cruiser's emergency lights, only to have the driver accelerate, at which point the chase was on.
   McKinney led the officer northbound on 19E to Old Quarry Road, turned around and headed south on 19E through Roan Mountain, then near the Buck Mountain Road intersection attempted to ram Deputy Johnson's cruiser at 98 mph, as indicated by radar.
   McKinney then wound his way through Shell Creek Road to Hubert Shell Road, went on to Morgan Branch Road to Old U.S. 19E before heading back through Roan Mountain to Old Railroad Grade Road and the entrance to the state prison.
   When McKinney hit the dead end at the prison gates, Deputy Johnson blocked the road. McKinney tried to get away by jumping the curb in the Jeep and riding an embankment out.
   Back-up officer Sgt. Patrick Johnson grabbed the stop sticks from his vehicle and placed them in the Jeep's path, resulting in McKinney puncturing three tires. McKinney made it to Old Railroad Grade where he lost control of the Jeep and left the roadway without further damaging the vehicle.
   McKinney then jumped out and was subdued with minimal force, causing minor injury, according to the report.
   Deputy Johnson smelled alcohol on McKinney and transported him to Carter County Jail where he signed an implied consent form, agreeing to submit to a blood alcohol test. He was taken to Sycamore Shoals Emergency Room where a blood sample was obtained and he was treated for injuries.
   Deputy Johnson said there was no serious injury or property damage resulting from the pursuit, thanks to "outstanding planning and coordinating" by Sgt. Johnson, Deputy Todd Hamm, Lt. Mike Fraley and Constable Leonard Johnson.
   McKinney was charged with DUI, felony reckless endangerment and failure to yield to an emergency vehicle.
   The failure to yield charge was dismissed Tuesday in General Sessions Court after McKinney pleaded guilty to DUI and was fined $350 plus costs and sentenced to 11 months, 29 days suspended except for two days to be served in Carter County Jail. He additionally received 11 months, 29 days on the charge of reckless endangerment, suspended except for eight days' jail time, a $25 fine and court costs. He remained in jail Tuesday night on $16,000 bond.