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Citizen's arrest: Suspect who fled crash nabbed by Mount Carmel resident

Jeff Bobo • Mar 20, 2020 at 5:30 PM

MOUNT CARMEL — A Blountville man who crashed his work van on Carters Valley Road Friday morning and then fled on foot into some nearby woods was apparently “persuaded” to return to the scene by a nearby resident who chased him down.

Mount Carmel police said a roofing van driven by Keith Vestal, 40, was traveling west on Carters Valley Road on the east end of Mount Carmel shortly after 10 a.m. when the vehicle exited the roadway to the right side and struck a tree that was at the bottom of a steep embankment.

“He states his phone was ringing so he went to (answer) his phone,” Mount Carmel Police Department Chief Ken Lunsford Jr. told the Times News. “Obviously he left the road and hit the tree. People came out of the home to make sure he’s OK. He started grabbing some stuff and took off running up into the woods. Apparently they chased him, got him into custody, and brought him back to the scene.”

Lunsford added, “Now we’ve discovered he has warrant out of Sullivan County for domestic violence.”

Vestal couldn’t have known at the time that he didn’t need to run to stay out of jail.

When the MCPD notified the Sullivan County Sheriff’s Office that Vestal was in custody, SCSO officials said they wouldn’t be booking him into jail now.

“They are only taking felonies,” Lunsford said. “Everyone else is probably getting tickets until this virus period ends. That is what I heard.”

Steven Dunn, who lives across the street from where the crash occurred, told the Times News he went outside to investigate after hearing a big “boom.”

“I walked outside and there was a guy kind of running around in some brush,” Dunn said. “He basically took off running.”

KTN: Who chased him down?

Dunn: “I went over and kind of went after him. It’s not the first time this has happened on this road. I asked him how he was doing and he kind of took off on me.”

KTN: How’d you get him back over here?

Dunn: “I just persuaded him.”

KTN: Did he say anything? Why did he take off?

Dunn: “He said he wasn’t feeling good. That’s all. He’s having a bad day.”

Vestal was transported by Hawkins County EMS to Holston Valley Medical Center for treatment of crash-related injuries.

Lunsford said Vestal would be cited for failure to exercise due care, violation of the hands-free cell phone law, and for not having possession of his license.

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