Itawamba County Sheriff survives topsy-turvy chase

By Adam Armour/The Itawamba County Times

FULTON – With a certain amount of head-shaking awe, Itawamba County Sheriff Chris Dickinson looked over his truck, which now resembles a hunk of scrap metal more than the Ford F-150 it had once been.
The damage came during an early morning chase on June 1 in which the truck flipped eight times before coming to a stop.
“I am lucky to be alive,” said the sheriff, who emerged with little more than bruises, a few scrapes and burns, and a lot of soreness that resulted in an overnight hospital stay.
According to Dickinson, this is why law enforcement tries to avoid high-speed pursuits.
“Under normal circumstances we wouldn’t chase somebody,” Dickinson said. “But, this guy had escaped from the county jail, stolen a truck, had 30 years hanging over his head and was high as a kite … he had nothing to lose.”
The escapee was T.J. Spradling of Mantachie, a repeat offender who was facing charges of 10 counts of burglary and drug abuse.
After being taken into custody by a bail bondsman a little before 1 a.m. and handcuffed to a railing inside the Itawamba County Jail’s main hallway, Spradling allegedly picked the cuffs’ lock and ran free, stole a JESCO truck and fled.
“He had a plan; he could have killed somebody at that jail,” Dickinson said.
When the pursuit started, Dickinson took the lead and promptly tried to run the suspect’s vehicle off County Road 1970. Because it was early morning and there were few cars traveling the familiar roads, Dickinson gave chase. It quickly hit 60-70 mph.
“I was simply going to square up behind him and push him across the road into a field and safely end it,” the sheriff said. But, inside a curve, the suspect slammed the brakes of his vehicle, causing the sheriff’s truck to catch up quickly and lock the bumpers of both trucks together.
The suspect suddenly accelerated again, pulling the bumper off the stolen truck and tossing the sheriff’s vehicle.
“It just slung me around,” the sheriff said. “The first lick hurt; the second lick really hurt; and by the fourth lick I just knew I was going to die. I was ready to meet my maker.”
When the truck stopped, it was right-side up. The sheriff kicked open the driver’s side door and chased the suspect on foot. He said he could see where Spradling had wrecked a few hundred feet or so away.
He was picked up by a passing deputy before he arrived at the wrecked JESCO truck. Spradling was taken into custody again and remains in the Itawamba County Jail without bail. According to Dickinson, if convicted, he will spend upward of 30 years in prison.

Contact Adam Armour at (662) 862-3141 or

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