Wednesday, June 12, 2024

Suspect apprehended following police standoff, highway closure

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A police standoff near Wiley Funeral Home Wednesday afternoon resulted in an almost two-hour closure of U.S. Highway 377 between state Highway 144 and Hill Blvd.

According to a news release from Chief Mitch Galvan, a Granbury Police Department traffic unit observed a white Chevrolet pickup traveling westbound on U.S. 377 around 2:43 p.m. Wednesday, June 5. The driver was traveling above the posted speed limit and was also swerving between lanes. The officer attempted to stop the vehicle, but it continued traveling westbound.

Galvan reported that as the vehicle approached the intersection of U.S. 377 and Hill Blvd., the truck struck the rear end of another pickup truck. The officer exited his unit and began walking toward the driver’s side of the white Chevrolet when it took off and fled westbound on U.S. 377. In the process of fleeing, the white Chevrolet struck additional vehicles as it continued westbound. Then it left the roadway and began traveling in the barrow ditch, where it eventually struck two parked vehicles and a house.

Jane Gilbreath, the owner of the damaged home on Tahiti Drive, said she and her husband were watching TV when they heard a loud crash that “almost sounded like an explosion.”

“We thought, ‘Of course, another wreck on (U.S.) 377,’ but (it sounded like) a really bad one, so we thought we should step out to see if we needed to call 911,” she said. “We were heading out the door, but the cops were already there with their guns drawn and were motioning us to go back in the house. We could see there was a white pickup truck halfway in our driveway and halfway in our yard. We assumed there was going to be a lot of damage to our cars, but we didn’t know the extent at the time.”

Gilbreath said she understood police had been in pursuit of the driver due to erratic driving.

"I don’t know the speed he was going, other than he ran off the highway and stopped when he hit our cars,” she said. “There were no signs of him braking so he hit it full force.”

According to the release, officers conducted a felony stop on the vehicle and attempted to have the driver exit the vehicle. Area residences were evacuated and traffic on U.S. 377 was redirected.

Gilbreath, however, was unable to evacuate her residence due to health concerns.

“The police came to our backdoor to make sure we were OK,” she said. “They wanted to extract us from the house, but I have heart failure, so I can’t walk very far. We told (the officer) that wasn’t going to be possible, so he told us to hunker down somewhere. I got as far away from the front of the house as I could and stayed sequestered in my back bathroom area.”

While the standoff was in progress, Gilbreath said she had her tablet with her in the bathroom and made sure to keep all of Hood County updated on the situation via social media.

“I wanted to give the officers credit because they handled the situation very calmly,” she said. “They were speaking to the man calmly trying to get him out."

Galvan said the driver would not cooperate with officers’ commands and was seen reaching under his seat on several occasions, but officers could not determine if he had something in his hands during that time.

“After several minutes, the Region 8 Special Operations Group was called to the scene,” Galvan said. “After attempting to talk the suspect out of the vehicle for over an hour, gas was deployed into the vehicle, and the suspect later exited the truck and was taken into custody.”

Gilbreath said she watched as the SWAT team deployed drones to break the back window of the truck.

“When they broke the window, they shot tear gas in. He didn’t give himself up. He only exited the truck because they shot tear gas through the truck window, and then they were able to apprehend him from that,” she said.

One of the drones, Gilbreath said, was also equipped with cameras and was told by the GPD officers that the driver was “high.”

"Even when he was sitting in his truck, the drone with the camera could see him and he was smoking a crack pipe,” she said.

The suspect was identified as 63-year-old Barry Harrell out of Fort Worth, the news release reports. Harrell is charged with possession of cocaine, evading arrest in a motor vehicle, tampering with evidence and accident involving damage.

Gilbreath said she was informed Harrell did not own the white Chevrolet pickup; he had only borrowed it.

She added that both her car, a Chevy Equinox, and her husband’s truck, a Chevrolet Silverado, were totaled from the damage.

"The police cleared out as much as they could,” she said. “I haven’t had insurance out here yet, but both vehicles are totaled. The garage door collapsed and knocked a brick off the corner of our home and did some structural damage to the garage. That’s the extent of what I know, but it was scary. I really appreciate the good job that the officers did, keeping everything calm and not letting things get out of hand.”

Galvan said since Harrell appeared to run into other vehicles intentionally, additional charges could be filed against him once the other victims are located and identified.

“The other drivers that had been struck had left the scene by the time the incident had concluded, and we are hoping to be contacted by them soon,” he added. “The investigation is still ongoing at this time.”