Jacksonville authorities believe an Arkansas man who led authorities on an extended vehicle chase early Thursday might have been planning to shoot the officer pursuing him.
Police found a Colt .45 Caliber Automatic, M1911A1 pistol laying on the passenger’s seat, a "Scream"-style mask (patterned after a series of American slasher movies) underneath the driver's seat, and a spent rifle casing on his floorboard, reports show.
There was also a large buck knife in his trunk.
Suspect Joshua McGhee, 37, of Arkansas seemed to be going out of his way to bait Jacksonville Police Officer Brandon Dobbs, stopping his car three times and resuming the chase twice while being pursued by him. During his final stop he flipped Dobbs off with both hands.
During two of these stops McGhee acted as if he were going to climb out – going as far as to open his car door. But when the officer tried to exit his police car to approach the man, McGhee slammed his door and drove away, wheels screeching. Officer Dobbs continued the pursuit each time.
Backup arrived for Officer Dobbs' third stop of McGhee and helped drag the suspect out of the vehicle.
The strangeness of events brought Jacksonville Police Det. Sgt. Daniel Franklin to the conclusion the suspect had been planning to shoot Dobbs.
"I really think he was trying to work up the nerve," the sergeant said later Thursday morning. "He had a handgun laying on the passenger seat when the commands were being given. This could have had a decidedly different outcome.
Sgt. Franklin said in terms of the potential danger, “This is probably one of the worst pursuits we have had in awhile.”
He said it is common for a vehicle to elude officers until a final stopping point but this suspect kept running away.
“It would have been easy for him to grab (the pistol) and shoot the officer as he approached,” Sgt. Franklin said.
McGhee remained in custody in Jacksonville Jail Thursday, jail records show; bond had not been set.
The chase began about 2:40 a.m. Wednesday and at its conclusion, McGhee was arrested on Suspicion Of Evading Arrest With A Vehicle, a Third Degree Felony; Unlawful Carrying Of A Weapon, a Class A Misdemeanor; and Resisting Arrest, a Class A Misdemeanor.
Additionally, Dobbs received numerous traffic citations for stop lights and traffic lights he ran during the pursuit.
According to Sgt. Franklin, Officer Dobbs was initially in his patrol vehicle around Kickapoo and Patton when he spotted McGhee approaching behind him. McGhee's car swerved and swiveled around Dobbs, and the officer decided to give pursuit.
McGhee first came to a stop in the 600 block of Jefferson Street, according to reports. When he stopped, Officer Dobbs full believed the driver was yielding to police lights and started to climb out of his police vehicle.
However, when he opened his car door the other vehicle spun its tires and sped off. Officer Dobbs resumed the chase.
It continued north on Jefferson and then east on Madison with Officer Dobbs perusing behind. It traveled east on Madison and continued for awhile, reached Jefferson before continuing east on Madison.
When McGhee stopped the vehicle again in the 700 block of Patton, Officer Dobbs put his lights on and pulled up again to McGhee's car, but the vehicle once again sped off like before, heading north on Patton.
The next time McGhee stopped his car was when backup help arrived to help, and the driver flipped Dobbs off with both hands as he climbed out.
Berryhill helped grab McGee, holding him as he put him into his cuffs with his hands behind his head.