ELIZABETHTON — Volkswagen beetles are normally not used as police pursuit vehicles, but the Carter County Sheriff’s Department’s new Volkswagen may have prevented a tragedy last week at a busy intersection. The Volkswagen and its driver, Deputy Shane Watson, placed themselves in danger to block a car from possibly running a red light.
The intended role of the bug is to serve as the assigned vehicle for Watson, who is one of the department’s school resource officers. In addition to his law enforcement and security duties at Cloudland High School, Watson also serves as a Drug Abuse Resistance Education instructor at Cloudland Elementary School.
Watson’s Volkswagen is effective in grabbing the attention and affection of the young students he teaches. The car is striped with conventional Carter County Sheriff’s Department markings. It has the emergency lights and siren of a police vehicle and also has DARE insignia. It’s appearance is completed by the car’s official number: “12 1/2.”
On Feb. 2, Watson and his Volkswagen were at the Carter County Courthouse when a man approached Watson and pointed to a gray Dodge truck. The man said the truck was being driven all over the road and almost struck several vehicles.
As Watson watched, he said the westbound truck veered into the eastbound lanes on Elk Avenue, nearly striking cars parked in front of the University of Tennessee Agricultural Extension Office.
Watson jumped into the Volkswagen, turned on his emergency lights and siren and got behind the slow-moving truck. He said the driver took no notice of him and continued driving across the Elk Avenue Bridge, nearly striking the command vehicle of Elizabethton Fire Chief Barry Carrier.
“I tried to get out of her way,” Carrier said. “I was able to swerve over to the right and avoid her and the little doodle bug. She was driving a big old pickup truck. It could have done some damage.”
Watson said the truck continued to move at less than 20 mph and made the turn onto East E Street. He saw that it did not appear to be slowing down for the red light at the intersection with Sycamore Street.
To prevent the large pickup from going through the intersection on a red light and possibly crashing into a car, Watson decided to sacrifice the Volkswagen. He pulled it in front of the truck and slowed down.
“It came close but she stopped before hitting me,” Watson said. He jumped out of the Volkswagen ran to the truck, opened the door pulled the keys out of the ignition and then put the gear shifter in park.
Watson identified the driver as Cynthia Ann Andes, 50, 130 Spring St., Hampton.
“She told me she drank a half a liter of vodka and (took) several medications including morphine, Xanax and Soma,” Watson said.
Watson arrested Andes on a fourth offense of driving while intoxicated, a second offense of driving on a revoked license and felony evading arrest. She was also served with an outstanding warrant charging her with violation of probation.
“We are proud of our Volkswagen,” Sheriff Chris Mathes said. “It gets a lot of positive attention for our department and I am glad it didn’t get damaged. I am even more happy that no one got hurt.”