Suspect held in late-night pursuit, crash

By Danza Johnson/NEMS Daily Journal

TUPELO – Bond was set at $10,000 Wednesday for the man accused of taking police on a high-speed chase through west Tupelo on Tuesday night.
Paul Howell, 40, of Tupelo is charged with felony evading by the Lee County Sheriff’s Department and auto theft by the Tupelo Police Department after allegedly taking county and city law enforcement on a short high-speed chase.
An off-duty sheriff’s deputy spotted the SUV, which had been reported stolen earlier in the day, while Howell was driving it at the intersection of Coley Road and West Main Street.
According to Lee County Sheriff Jim Johnson, the deputy turned on his blue lights, the suspect sped off and a chase began.
“The deputy was headed home when he saw the vehicle and when he tried to stop it, the driver sped off,” said Johnson. “The chase ended pretty quickly when the suspect ran into a light pole on Thomas Street.”
Tupelo Police Capt. Chuck Bunn said that by the time police arrived to help sheriff’s deputies, the suspect already had crashed the car into a light pole on South Thomas Street near the post office.
Tupelo Water and Light crews worked most of the day Wednesday to repair the pole, which was split in half.
According to reports, the police believed the SUV that Howell was driving was one reported stolen from Harvey Russell’s Auto World earlier Tuesday. A person asked to test drive the vehicle and never returned it to the dealership.
Johnson said the chase was captured on the patrol car’s dash camera and will be reviewed to make sure proper procedure was followed during the pursuit and for future training.
“He was on his way home, but our deputies get to take their cars home, so he was able to spot the suspect and pursue him,” said Johnson. “This deputy was off the clock, but still did his duty as a law enforcer to help to bring in a possible suspect.”
A passenger who was in the vehicle with Howell at the time of the chase and accident was held by police, but later was released with no charges.

Contact Danza Johnson at (662) 678-1583 or danza.johnson@djournal.com.