GATE CITY — Two Virginia State Police troopers were injured Tuesday following a high-speed chase in Scott County that reached speeds of more than 100 mph and left several police cruisers wrecked.
Jason T. Byrns, 33, of Kingsport, is facing charges of attempted capital murder of a law enforcement officer and felony eluding police as a result of the chase, which ended at about 1:40 p.m. near the intersection of Daniel Boone Road and Tomahawk Drive northwest of Gate City.
Scott County Commonwealth’s Attorney Marcus McClung said additional charges against Byrns are pending after a search of his 2005 Kia Sedona turned up prescription narcotics.
“I don’t know why this happened,” McClung said. “But we found numerous pills and cash when we searched his car.”
The incident remains under investigation by the VSP, McClung said.
The two officers injured in the pursuit were identified as Trooper James C. Lawson and Trooper Brian K Hubbard. Both were taken to Holston Valley Medical Center in Kingsport for treatment following their wrecks.
Wellmont spokesman Jim Wozniak said Tuesday evening that Lawson was listed in serious condition. Hubbard was treated and released Tuesday, according to the VSP.
Virginia Department of Motor Vehicles officer Jeff Carter also reportedly received injuries due to his involvement in the chase and was taken to Holston Valley later Tuesday for treatment. His condition was not immediately available.
Scott County Sheriff John Puckett said said five police cruisers — including three state vehicles and two from the sheriff’s office — were damaged in some way during the chase before Byrns crashed his car into a creek. The two state police vehicles and one sheriff's office cruiser received extensive damage, Puckett said.
The pursuit began around 1:20 p.m. when Byrns allegedly attempted to evade a VSP checking detail near the intersection of East Carters Valley Road and Qualls Road.
Puckett said Byrns drove through Gate City, hitting speeds estimated between 55 and 70 mph in the downtown area, before topping 100 mph on a section of Daniel Boone Road just west of town.
After driving down Daniel Boone Road Puckett said Byrns cut across U.S. Route 23 onto a dead-end road, where he was blocked in by a Scott County Sheriff’s Office deputy and Trooper Lawson.
Byrns allegedly backed into those cruisers before driving back across Route 23 and onto Daniel Boone Road for a second time. After turning east on Daniel Boone Road, Byrns allegedly struck two more law enforcement vehicles with Lawson still in pursuit.
According to the VSP, Byrns allegedly rammed Lawson's car, forcing it off the left side of Daniel Boone Road and causing it to hit a parked truck head on.
Hubbard reportedly wrecked while responding to assist with the pursuit, a VSP spokeswoman said. His vehicle ran off the right side of Daniel Boone Road before striking a bridge and coming to rest in a creek.
Puckett said the two officers wrecked roughly a half-mile apart while Byrns crashed his vehicle a short distance after ramming Lawson's cruiser.
After being taken into custody without incident, Byrns allegedly told authorities that he fled the checkpoint because he didn’t have a driver’s license. Authorities said prescription drugs and cash were found during a subsequent search of Byrns’ vehicle.
Both injured VSP officers were reportedly alert and awake at the scene following their wrecks. Lawson was transported to Holston Valley by Med-Flight while Hubbard was taken by state vehicle for treatment.
McClung said several dozen members of various local and state law enforcement agencies had visited the hospital Tuesday to show support for the injured officers.
“Our thoughts and prayers are with the officers and their families,” McClung said. “On a day-to-day basis, when you enter a checkpoint, you don’t know if you’ll end up in the emergency room like these officers have. It’s something they could potentially go through day-to-day with every stop and they just don’t get enough credit for all they do.”
Byrns was transported to the Scott County Sheriff’s Office in Gate City for questioning before being taken to the Southwest Virginia Regional Jail in Duffield, where he is being held without bail.
Byrns could be arraigned in Scott County General District Court as early as Thursday, authorities said.