Local News

High-speed chase catches man wanted in car theft

Posted December 19, 2008 4:48 p.m. EST
Updated December 20, 2008 6:59 a.m. EST

— State troopers ran a car off the road Friday in a special maneuver that ended a high-speed chase from Rocky Mount to Wake County on U.S. Highway 64 West and let them capture a man wanted for trying to run down down two Rocky Mount police officers.

Shortly after 4 p.m., two Rocky Mount police officers patrolling Golden East Mall, 1100 N. Wesleyan Blvd., spotted a yellow sport-utility vehicle that had been reported stolen in Virginia Beach, Va., Megan Hanks, the city's public-affairs manager, said.

The officers stopped the vehicle, but the driver – identified as Thomas James Merchant, 20 – attempted to run over both officers. In response, an officer fired multiple rounds at the stolen vehicle, Hanks said. As Merchant fled, the SUV struck a police car and two other vehicles.

Rocky Mount officers pursued Merchant along U.S. Highway 301 South and onto U.S. Highway 64 West. Nash County sheriff's deputies and state troopers picked up the chase when the driver left the city.

The chase continued through Franklin County briefly and then into Wake County, where Merchant turned onto Rolesville Road, north of Mitchell Road, said Patty McQuillan, a spokeswoman for the state Crime Control and Public Safety Department.

Troopers laid out stop sticks on Rolesville Road, and Merchant ran over them, causing the SUV's right tires to go flat, McQuillan said.

Trooper C. Pate did a PIT maneuver in which an officer uses a cruiser to bump a chased car out of control. It forced Merchant to stop the SUV at Rolesville and Old Milburnie roads. Officers surrounded the car and immediately apprehended the suspect.

Merchant was treated for minor injuries at WakeMed in Raleigh, but no one else was injured in the chase, which ended around 4:45 p.m.

A bystander's car ran over stop sticks that officers had laid out to stop the fleeing vehicle, McQuillan said.

Merchant originally gave troopers a false name, making it hard to identify him, Sgt. M. Landon, with the Highway Patrol said.

Merchant faces a number of felony charges, including assaulting a police officer with a deadly weapon, motor-vehicle theft and pursuit. Troopers also charged with speeding, driving with an operator's license and a stop-sign violation, Landon said.

He was being held in the Nash County Jail Saturday morning.