April 24, 2002
Mount Enterprise man gets 20 years for evading arrest
APRIL 25 -- A jury in the 145th District Court sentenced a Mount Enterprise man this week to 20 years in prison and a $10,000 fine for evading arrest.
Assistant District Attorney Katie Neilson said Van Daron Hooker, 31, was charged with the state jail felony after he fled from police on Oct. 30, 2001.
"We added a deadly weapon charge to the evading charge, because he was driving while intoxicated, and because he was driving 90 mph with his lights off in a residential area," she said. "That raised the evading charge to a third-degree felony, and then the charge was enhanced to a second-degree felony because of a prior offense he had committed."
Ms. Nielson said police were attempting to stop Hooker's automobile because they had received a complaint that he was exposing himself at Kroger.
"He had previously been exposing himself, in the parking lot of Berry Direct, to a female who had just completed a training course there," Ms. Nielson said. "The woman went in and told her supervisor, but by the time they came out he was gone."
Ms. Nielson said the woman left Berry Direct and noticed that the man's car was a couple of cars ahead of her in traffic. She followed him to Kroger, on North Street, where she saw him park in a secluded area.
"The woman decided she wasn't going to let him do this to someone else, so she called the police," Ms. Nielson said. "It could have ended right there with a misdemeanor arrest for indecent exposure, but instead the man chose to run from the police."
Hooker left the Kroger parking lot traveling in a southbound direction on North Street, turned right onto Powers Street and right again onto Pearl Street, Ms. Neilson said. Police estimated he was driving in excess of 90 mph.
"He turned his headlights off, and he was all over the road," Ms. Nielson said. "Cars were taking evasive action to miss him. The pursuit ended when he crashed into a house on Bowie Street."
Ms. Nielson said she made the point at trial that the house could have just as easily been a person.
"That's why we charged him with using a deadly weapon," she said. "The jury found that he was guilty of evading arrest, and he was also guilty of using his vehicle as a deadly weapon."
During the punishment phase of the trial, Ms. Nielson told the jury about Hooker's prior offense.
"He sliced someone up with a razor blade, and he got five years in prison for it," Ms. Nielson said. "I asked vehemently that the jury give him the maximum sentence."
Ms. Nielson said she was pleased that the jury decided to do exactly that, by sentencing the man to 20 years.
Hooker was represented by defense attorney Clyde Howard.
Howard said the trial did not go well for his client.
"I have to say the prosecution did a good job with the evidence they had," he said. "They presented it well, I thought. I'm certainly not going to go behind a jury, and I understand how they reached their conclusion. But we didn't feel it was the right conclusion, regarding guilt or innocence. We do plan to appeal."