A Waynesboro man led officers from several counties on a high-speed chase last Wednesday that began when he stole a police vehicle and ended when the vehicle ran out of gas in Williamson County.
The police report states that on Wednesday, April 14th, Waynesboro police were dispatched to meet with a witness who stated that her 16-year-old grandson had been assaulted by James William Berry, age 29, of Waynesboro. Berry was allegedly the boyfriend of the youth’s mother. Officers went to the residence where Berry lived with the victim and his mother, where they stopped Berry from attempting to leave the apartment via the back door. After taking a statement from the alleged victim and observing an injury above his eye, officers patted Berry down before placing him in the back seat of the patrol vehicle. A hypodermic syringe was allegedly found in Berry’s pants pocket. The report states that Berry appeared to be under the influence of an intoxicant, with slurred speech, dilated eyes, and excessive sweating.
While officers continued to take written statements from witnesses, the handcuffed Berry managed to get his hands in front of him and escape from one of the handcuffs. He then forced open the sliding window partition in the police vehicle, and maneuvered himself through the opening into the front seat of the vehicle. At that time, he sped away in the stolen vehicle with the emergency lights on.
Berry initially fled to the Collinwood area, where Collinwood officers joined the Wayne County Sheriff’s Office in the pursuit. Berry then got onto the Natchez Trace headed north. Several different police agencies were involved in the pursuit along the way, including Lawrence County, Lewis County, Maury County, Williamson County, and Park Rangers. Of great concern to police was the fact that not only was Berry placing others in danger by traveling at such high rates of speed, but that he had access to a loaded AR-15 and 12-gauge shotgun that were in the police vehicle.
After throwing several items out of the vehicle along the way, including a laptop, cellphone, and radar equipment, and destroying other equipment in the vehicle, Berry was finally forced to come to a stop when the vehicle ran out of gas on the Natchez Trace in Williamson County. He was placed under arrest and transported back to Wayne County for booking. A closer inspection of the police vehicle revealed that Berry had attempted to catch it on fire at some point by lighting paper on fire and placing the burning paper in the back seat.
Berry was arrested on multiple charges, including: resisting stop/arrest (2 counts), simple domestic assault, possession of drug paraphernalia, DUI 4th offense, driving on revoked/suspended license 3rd offense, unlawful possession of a weapon, evading arrest (2 counts), escape, attempted criminal arson, reckless endangerment, criminal impersonation, theft of property $10,000-$250,000, vandalism over $1,000, burglary, and reckless driving (2 counts). He was booked into the Wayne County Jail on $220,500.00 bond.