07/18/2003

Tenn. Officers Planned to End Stolen Car Pursuit Peacefully

Officer Down: Sgt. Jerry Mundy & Deputy John Musice - [Mt. Juliet, ]

By Leon Alligood, The Tennessean

The high-speed pursuit that ended in death yesterday morning for two Wilson County lawmen began several hours earlier in Knoxville.

Fallon Tallent, 21, of Maryville and Dorothy Cash, 33, of Knoxville were spotted in an apartment complex parking lot by a Knoxville police officer. The car they were in, a Mercedes-Benz, had been reported stolen in Maryville on Tuesday.

When the officer, who knew Tallent, pulled in behind them, Tallent rammed the patrol car and left at high speed, police said. The officer gave chase for about two miles, but a supervisor called off the pursuit.

"We knew who she was, and we didn't want to risk harming others," said Darrell DeBusk, spokesman for the Knoxville Police Department.

Apparently, the women then began their high-speed run from East to Middle Tennessee.

A short time later, the Cumberland County Sheriff's Department notified the Tennessee Highway Patrol about a silver Mercedes driving recklessly on Interstate 40 west at mile marker 300, said Beth Tucker Womack, spokeswoman for the Tennessee Department of Safety.

About 30 minutes later, someone called the Highway Patrol about the car and gave the tag number. It was the stolen car from Maryville, dispatchers discovered.

Highway Patrol dispatchers sent an alert to patrol officers.

At some point, THP alerted officials in Smith County about the car speeding on the interstate, but the car was soon over the line in Wilson County, Smith officials said.

THP then informed the Wilson County Sheriff's Department and the Lebanon and Mt. Juliet police departments at 9:13 a.m. that the stolen car was headed west, toward Nashville.

Shortly after the bulletin was dispatched, a Wilson County deputy saw the Mercedes in east Wilson County and fell in behind it. But when the deputy turned on his vehicle's emergency lights the driver did not stop.

A few minutes later, the car entered the Lebanon city limits. Lebanon police officers joined the chase as the now-growing convoy moved through morning traffic on the interstate.

At the western edge of Lebanon, the city officers dropped out of the chase.

Meanwhile, the Mt. Juliet Police Department was preparing for the car to enter its jurisdiction.

Sgt. Jerry Mundy was joined by Wilson County deputy John Musice as the two officers laid down a spike strip on the interstate. It was designed to deflate the Mercedes' tires and bring a peaceful end to what had been a harrowing morning.

When the Mercedes, still being driven by Tallent, approached the Mt. Juliet exit, the car swerved to the right of the spikes and struck Musice's patrol car, according to authorities.

The impact killed the two officers instantly, authorities said.

The interstate was closed for about four hours while investigators from the TBI and the Tennessee Highway Patrol joined local officers in investigating the crash.

Back to previous page