Tenn. police search for fugitive cop killer
|Rocky Houston, 46, left, has been apprehended by authorities. A massive manhunt is underway for Leon Houston, right, 47.|
The Associated Press
KINGSTON, Tenn.- Authorities tightened their perimeter and executed search warrants Friday as the search continued for one of two brothers accused in the deadly ambush of a sheriff's deputy and a friend who was riding with him on patrol.
"We have absolutely no reason to believe he is out of the area," said Jennifer Johnson, spokeswoman with the Tennessee Bureau of Investigation. "And he obviously has nothing to lose."
Authorities believe Leon Houston, 47, would try to seek shelter and aid from friends and family in rural southern Roane County, about 35 miles southwest of Knoxville, where Deputy Bill Jones and his friend, Mike Brown, were found dead in a patrol car Thursday evening.
Leon Houston "knows that area very well. He knows everybody in that area and there is no telling how long he can hide out up there," Johnson said.
Houston and his brother, Rocky Houston - who is now in custody - are "resourceful people," she said.
"Their names have come to the surface on numerous occasions," Johnson said. "They are very anti-government and just antiestablishment, period. They have threatened public officials on occasion and their reputations speak for themselves."
The attack took place about 5:30 p.m. EDT near the home of Rocky Houston, 46, as Jones made a second patrol pass through the Midway community.
"The car was just shot to pieces with a high-powered rifle," Johnson said. "They are still trying to estimate exactly how many shots were fired. A neighbor said he heard as many as 20, and that is probably conservative."
Gov. Phil Bredesen, commenting on the tragedy Friday after graduation exercises at the University of Tennessee, said the incident "reminds you that we have people in jobs, particularly in public safety, that truly are very dangerous and some awful things happen."
He said his thoughts and prayers go out to "all the loved ones of the people who were involved" and was hopeful the case would be "taken care of expeditiously."
A search warrant was executed on Rocky Houston's home and the home of an uncle, Ray Johnson, 65, where the pair fled on a four-wheel all-terrain vehicle after the shooting. The ATV was still at the home Friday.
The uncle, Ray Johnson, 65, was cooperating with authorities. He told police he drove the brothers from the area, dropping off Leon near Midway Cemetery and taking Rocky on to a hospital in Oak Ridge. Rocky, shot in the hip and wrist, was arrested at the hospital and transferred to University of Tennessee Medical Center in Knoxville, where he remained under guard.
No charges had yet been filed, Johnson said.
Roadblocks were set up on Highway 58 and connecting roads. "A perimeter will be set up today and we will do a radius-type sweep," said Scott Stout, assistant director of the Roane County emergency management agency.
"It is thought that (Leon) Houston might have weapons, some semi- to automatic weapons, in his possession, as well as night vision goggles," Stout said.
Both Houstons were well known to local law enforcement for various incidents in the past, most recently when they were accused of threatening forest service employees who crossed onto their property to fight a fire. Both men had revoked gun permits.
Both have filed several lawsuits in federal court since 2001 alleging a government conspiracy aimed at stopping them from exposing corruption, according to records examined by The Knoxville News Sentinel.
It was not clear if the 53-year-old deputy was attempting to serve outstanding warrants to Rocky Houston when the attack took place, Roane County Sheriff David Haggard said. Brown, whose age was unavailable, had signed a waiver approved by Haggard to join his friend on patrol.
"As far as we know, he was patrolling the area and he had knowledge that there were active warrants out against Rocky Houston," Haggard said. "And if (Jones) had called (Rocky Houston) out, he would have arrested him."
"It appears that they drove right into an ambush," he said. Brown was unarmed. Investigators believe Jones was able to return fire with his pistol because Rocky Houston suffered superficial gunshot wounds to his hand and hip that were being treated at a Knoxville hospital Friday, where he was under guard.
Rocky Houston was previously an employee for Wackenhut Services Inc., which provides security for U.S. Department of Energy facilities in nearby Oak Ridge, the newspaper reported. He was fired in 2003 after being accused of threatening a local judge and resisting arrest.
Haggard said Jones had been in law enforcement in the region for more than 25 years but had only been working for the sheriff's department about a year.
"He was an exceptionally good person, just a kindhearted person, but he was all law enforcement," Haggard said. "He knew his job."
Roane County was the scene of another deadly attack on law enforcement last August.
George Hyatte, 34, a career criminal serving a 41-year sentence, escaped Aug. 9 as two guards led him to a van for a return trip to Brushy Mountain Correctional Complex after a hearing at the courthouse.
Jennifer Hyatte, 31, a former prison nurse who met and married Hyatte behind bars, is charged with ambushing the guards, killing one and wounding the other. The couple was captured 36 hours later at a motel in Columbus, Ohio, and face trial on murder charges later this year.
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