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Escaped suspect in Whitwell still on the loose after stealing patrol car and gun; Search continues

UPDATE — 7:01 AM CST 1/24/18:

Local authorities say they are ready to resume the search for Dewayne Halfacre this morning in Whitwell. More agencies will be on hand to assist again today and the U.S. Marshals will also be assisting and ready to use deadly force if needed. Officials say Halfacre is still armed. Halfacre remains on the TBI’s Top 10 Most Wanted list this morning with a $2,500 reward offered for his capture (see information in earlier posts below)… Whitwell schools are also closed today as a result of the ongoing manhunt.  Stay with MarionCountyMessenger.com for the latest updates here and on Facebook.

UPDATE — 5:58 AM CST 1/24/18:

Roads remain open at this time while deputies and police continue to monitor the areas where Halfacre is suspected to be located. His wife, who made the drive down to Whitwell from her home in Lynchburg, Tenn. yesterday, has been reported to be very cooperative with local authorities and is hoping for him to peacefully turn himself in to authorities. We will continue to update with any new information. Be sure to follow our page for updated details.

 

UPDATE — 12:14 AM CST 1/24/18:

Authorities have re-opened the roads again. No word yet whether or not the search has ended for a second time tonight or of any capture. It was reported that someone was seen around the old shirt factory earlier this evening, which is located atop the hill behind the dump next to Smith’s Ace Hardware. We are closely monitoring the story and will update as needed…

UPDATE — 11:33 pm CST 1/23/18:

Halfacre’s wife drove down from Lynchburg this evening. She just spoke to deputies and has confirmed to several media outlets that he has not been detained yet. Police activity is ongoing. More updates as they become available…

UPDATE — 9:45 pm CST 1/23/18:

Authorities in Whitwell have closed Hwy 283 again and have surrounded the Smith’s Ace Hardware and area near the old shirt factory. We’ve been able to confirm with officials the current police activity is to continue the search for Dewayne Halfacre. Stay with us for updates…

UPDATE — 8:33 pm CST 1/23/18:

Marion County authorities have suspended their search for Dewayne Halfacre tonight after multiple agencies assisted with search efforts on Tuesday.

Halfacre and Tim Howell are both suspects in an armed robbery that occurred in Rutherford County recently before the pair were found in Marion County. Howell was apprehended on Monday, while Halfacre is still on the run.

Officials from agencies all around the area launched an extensive search Tuesday after Halfacre stole a patrol car and crashed it on Hwy 283 before escaping into the woods on the south side of the highway.

Whitwell area schools (Whitwell Elementary, Whitwell Middle and Whitwell High School) will be CLOSED on Wednesday 1/24/18 as a safety precaution for students and staff. The schools, located adjacent to the search area, were placed on lockdown Monday and Tuesday as a result. Marion Schools Superintendent, Dr. Mark Griffith, says safety is their first priority in this situation.

Authorities followed several leads from citizens who believed they saw Halfacre or heard noises on their property believed to be the suspect, but had no results in finding the fugitive.

Heavy police patrols in the Whitwell and Powell’s Crossroads area will continue throughout the night.

Halfacre has been added to the TBI’s Top 10 fugitive list. A reward is now being offered for his capture.

The Sheriff’s Department asks if you see Halfacre, don’t try to approach him — call 9-1-1 immediately! He is still believed to be armed and dangerous.

We will continue to update as new information becomes available…

UPDATE — 8:03 pm CST 1/23/18:

We confirmed just a while ago that Whitwell schools ONLY will be CLOSED on Wednesday 1/24/18 due to the ongoing manhunt in the Whitwell area as a safety precaution for the students and staff.

Dr. Mark Griffith, Superintendent of Marion County Schools, says safety is their first priority in this situation.

As a reminder, all other schools in the county — Jasper, South Pittsburg, and Monteagle Elementary — WILL be OPEN and on regular schedule.

Authorities have re-opened Highway 28 and 283 in Whitwell for the time being; however, police activity is still very active in the area as multiple agencies continue to search and patrol the areas where they believe 43-year-old Dewayne Halfacre could be hiding from police.

Stay with us for the latest updates.

UPDATE — 5:33 pm CST 1/23/18:

Schools were able to dismiss safely this afternoon using the rear entrance at Whitwell Middle School after Marion County Schools Superintendent, Dr. Mark Griffith, was given the clearance by the Marion County Sheriff’s Department.

Marion County Sheriff Ronnie “Bo” Burnett said that extra patrols were in place to assure the safety of parents and students during the dismissal. Eyewitnesses said the process went smoothly and the campuses of the three schools were cleared safely and in a timely manner.

Multiple agencies continue to search the areas between Whitwell and Powell’s Crossroads along Highway 283 in an attempt to find the suspect.

Dewayne Halfacre was last seen after crashing a patrol vehicle he stole into a tree near the Dollar General on Highway 283 earlier on Tuesday. He then escaped again on foot, heading up a bluff and into the woods on the south side of 283.

Local authorities have since blocked off Hwy. 283 between Osceola Drive and Magnolia Ave., where the police and other agencies have setup a makeshift command center for the search.

The Marion County Sheriff’s Department along with Whitwell Police, Sequatchie County Sheriff’s Department, Tennessee Highway Patrol, Hamilton County Special Response Team, SWAT team, K-9 teams, Tennessee Wildlife Resource Agency and others assist with the search.

The SWAT team and other agencies have been going door-to-door in Powell’s Crossroads and surrounding areas to check on residents and look around properties. They encourage locals to call and check on relatives and friends that live in or around the area to ensure they’re safe.

The TBI has added Halfacre to their Top 10 most wanted list as of late Tuesday afternoon. Authorities say he is to be considered armed and dangerous and to call 9-1-1 immediately if you see him.

Sheriff Burnett has said that teams will stay on the scene and on the search all night until Halfacre is found.

No decision has been made yet whether schools will be cancelled for students at Whitwell yet for Wednesday. Superintendent Griffith is expected to make that decision based on whether or not Halfacre is captured by morning.

Stay with us for the latest updates…

 

PREVIOUS UPDATE — 2:43 pm CST 1/23/18:

We have just learned that schools will be dismissing this afternoon, despite earlier reports. Stay with MarionCountyMessenger.com for the latest updates

Previous Story — 2:15 pm CST 1/23/18:

The robbery suspect who escaped after a crash on Monday morning in Whitwell is still on the run on Tuesday now after stealing a patrol car and crashing it into a tree near the Dollar General in Whitwell on Tuesday morning. The suspect also stole a deputy’s weapon at this time and fired at a deputy.

(Editor’s note: sources originally said the suspect had stolen a van, we were since able to confirm it was a car instead and have corrected that information…)

Halfacre then escaped into the woods by climbing up a bluff along Highway 283. We have been able to confirm that the deputy who was fired at was not injured

Dewayne Halfacre (Photo: Rutherford Co. Sheriff’s Dept)

The suspect, DeWayne Halfacre, also reportedly attempted to break into a home on Porter McCurry Road in Whitwell on Tuesday morning, but ran away.

Whitwell Elementary, Middle, and High schools are on lockdown again today and their entrances are blocked while SWAT teams search for a robbery suspect.Officials say they will remain on lockdown until law enforcement tells Superintendent Dr. Mark Griffith it is safe to lift it. Parents are not allowed to pick up their students during the lockdown.

Officials with the school system say that meals are being prepared to accommodate students. The superintendent says the schools are the safest places for the students to be. Griffith says he doesn’t know if there will be school at all tomorrow. He’s waiting for law enforcement to let him know what’s safe for everyone.

Multiple agencies are assisting with the search. THP helicopters have also been brought in to assist along with the Hamilton County K-9 team that have tracked the suspect’s scent.

According to Whitwell Police, the suspect was spotted around Highway 283 and Highway 28 area. Highway 283 is shut down. Suck Creek Road is open for anyone traveling through the area.

Businesses around the area where the suspect was seen say they have closed while police and deputies search.

Stay with MarionCountyMessenger.com for the latest.

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