Shots fired during chase

Published 4:02 am Wednesday, August 18, 2010

Two people were arrested and face attempted murder charges after law enforcement officers were led on a high-speed chase early Monday that started in Alabama, in Florida and ended back in Alabama.

James S. Brown, 27, of 1125 Hwy. 31, Bay Minette and Brittany Barnes, 20, of 717 E. Ridgeley Street, Atmore, were both charged with attempted murder after a shot was fired from the car the couple were in during the chase.

Brown, the driver of the Mercury Tracer, was also charged with attempting to elude, a certain person prohibited from carrying a firearm, reckless endangerment and third-degree criminal mischief.

Escambia County Chief Deputy Mike Lambert said the chase that ended with the arrests began in the early hours Monday morning.

“We had a checkpoint set up in the Nokomis area Sunday night into Monday morning,” Lambert said. “As officers approached Brown’s car at the checkpoint to ask for identification and registration, the car sped away at a high rate of speed.”

Lambert said the chase then began as Brown drove the vehicle into Baldwin County on U.S. 31.

“Our officers made contact at that time with Baldwin County and Bay Minette Police department,” Lambert said. “Those departments worked to set up road blocks to help us intercept the vehicle.”

The chase, which reached speeds of up to 90 mph, covered several miles of twists and turns and crossed into Baldwin County and Escambia County, Fla., before coming back to James Road in the Nokomis area near where the chase began, Lambert said.

“By that time in the chase, we had enough law enforcement vehicles in place to keep them from traveling back to Highway 31,” Lambert said. “At that point, Brown drove the vehicle through a gate and a wooden fence into a cow pasture.”

Lambert said the terrain in the pasture might have been the undoing of Brown’s attempt to flee police.

“The vehicle was jumping terraces in the field and finally the headlights went out on the car,” Lambert said. “The vehicle was unable to make it out of the pasture and back onto the roadway.”

Lambert said officers quickly approached the vehicles with weapons drawn.

“The officers approached the vehicle as they asked the suspects to put their hands up,” Lambert said. “Since we had seen a lot of movement in the vehicle during the chase we certainly didn’t know what to expect. The officers approached the vehicle with weapons drawn as they ordered the suspects to get their hands up.”

Lambert said as officers got closer to the vehicle a shot rang out from inside the vehicle.

“Our officers quickly took the driver of the vehicle into custody,” Lambert said. “After taking the two into custody, officers searched the vehicle and found an automatic handgun inside the vehicle. It appeared that Brown retrieved the handgun when the vehicle came to a rest in the field and fired a shot in the direction of the officers.”

Lambert said Barnes was interviewed and gave an additional account of the moment when the shot was fired.

“She (Barnes) told us that she shoved the gun around when it went off,” Lambert said. “We are continuing to question the suspects and are continuing our investigation into this incident.”

Lambert said Brown had previously been convicted of a felony count of robbery. Barnes was out on bond in connection with a robbery in Foley she has been accused of committing. Her trial o\is scheduled for next month, Lambert said.

“Both Brown and Barnes are being held in the Escambia County Jail awaiting a bond hearing,” Lambert said. “We have been in contact with Baldwin County, and they are seeking to revoke bond for Ms. Barnes.”

Lambert said officers with the Escambia County Sheriff’s Department, Atmore Police Department and Poarch Creek Indian Police Department responded to the incident. No injuries were reported.