Daily Progress, Jacksonville, TX

September 3, 2013

Convicted sex offender indicted for April chase

Ben Tinsley
Jacksonville Daily Progress

RUSK — A Cherokee County grand jury has indicted a convicted sex offender who rammed a police car with his vehicle at the conclusion of an extensive chase with authorities in April.

Christopher Dale Jett, 29, literarily drove a circle around Jacksonville during this April 21 chase, authorities said.

It began with a hit-and-run accident involving the vehicle of Jacksonville ISD Superintendent Joe Wardell (who has declined to discuss the incident).  

The chase ended with a cornered Jett essentially forcing an officer to use an entire can of pepper spray to subdue him.

Recent court documents released by the Cherokee County District Attorney's Office indicate the grand jury indicted Jett in connection with the Jacksonville chase — evading arrest with a vehicle — and a charge of assault-family violence — impeding breathing—enhanced, stemming from a separate, unrelated, Dec. 31, 2012 incident.

Jett remained in custody Friday in lieu of $116,000 bail. But he has been transferred to the Vernon campus of North Texas State Hospital for supervision, jail records show.

The sex offender designation comes from Jett's October 2002 conviction for molesting a 12-year-old girl — an indecency with a child-sexual contact charge.

He was released from prison in 2012, after registering as a Texas sex offender, according to the Texas Department of Public Safety Sex Offender Registry.

According to the registry, Jett will have to register as a sex offender for the rest of his life.

The chase for which Jett was recently indicted began around 8 p.m. April 21. Jacksonville Police officers responding to calls of the hit and run incident noticed the speeding vehicle driven by Jett in the vicinity of East Rusk and Larissa.

The chase continued from that intersection and continued to Larissa, then down several other city blocks. It accelerated to speeds of at least 65 mph.

Police said Jett was driving extremely dangerously — sometimes on the wrong side of the road.

“He nearly hit several vehicles because he kept turning wide,” Jacksonville Police Det. Sgt. Daniel Franklin told a Jacksonville Daily Progress reporter in April. “At one point at Tena and South Jackson,  he turned and almost caused an accident trying to avoid a patrol unit.”

The suspect  drove across US Hwy 69, running through numerous stop signs. He turned and drove up Beaumont, continuing to Beaumont and Brookside before ultimately ending up back on Rusk.

Jett was forced to stop at Brookside and Rusk because his path was blocked by a patrol unit in one lane of traffic and a Tahoe in the other.

He tried to run between the unit and the Tahoe, tried to force and accelerate them out of his way on the highway, Franklin has said.

“He tried to use his vehicle to force the cars out of his way – to the point where there was white smoke from his tires,” the detective said in April.

As this was happening, a Jacksonville police sergeant made his way to the suspect’s drivers side window and ordered Jett to exit his vehicle. When Jett ignored him, the sergeant sprayed him with pepper spray.

Another Jacksonville officer and one Texas Department of Public Safety trooper, managed to drag the driver out of the vehicle and place him in an ambulance.

The driver was fighting the entire time and the officers had to restrain him, Franklin has said.