UPDATE: Sheriff asking for public's help in multi-agency manhunt in Unicoi County mountains

Sue Guinn Legg • Updated Aug 18, 2017 at 9:48 PM

UNICOI COUNTY — Unicoi County Sheriff Mike Hensley is seeking the community’s help in a multi-agency manhunt underway in the mountainous Clear Branch community near the North Carolina line.

Hensley requested residents in that area take their keys out of their vehicles, lock their doors, be alert and call 911 upon any sighting of 38-year-old Jason Garland Hurst.

According to Hensley, Hurst was last seen fleeing on foot along a blasting cutout on overlooking the interstate near the Tennessee Welcome Center at the Clear Branch Exit of Interstate 26. He  was wearing blue jeans, no shirt and a yellow bandana tied around his head.

In addition to the Unicoi County Sheriff’s Department, the Tennessee Highway Patrol and K-9 officers from Washington County and Madison County, N.C., assisted in a search of the area. Temple Hill Elementary School was placed under lockdown and two officers were posted at the school late Friday morning, Hensley said.

According to the sheriff, Hurst was involved in a domestic disturbance Thursday evening in Yancey County, N.C. where he rammed his girlfriend’s car with another vehicle. Hensley said Hurst later stole a truck in Madison County which was spotted by deputies in Unicoi County around 10 a.m on Friday.

The deputies pursued the truck along the interstate to Clear Branch, at one point firing shots at his tires in an attempt to stop the truck. After exiting the interstate at Clear Branch, Hensley said Hurst drove the truck along a logging road and out onto a rough cutout that was blasted out of the mountain during the construction of the interstate.

According to the sheriff, Hurst then wrecked the truck on the cutout and fled the area on foot.

At press time,  law enforcement agencies were continuing to focus the search about one mile north of the Clear Brach exit along on a section of Spivey Mountain Road that runs parallel to the interstate.

Hensley said Hurst was recently released from a state penitentiary, where he served time on arson and auto burglary convictions.

Previously reported:

Officers from multiple jurisdictions are looking for the driver of a vehicle involved in a police chase on Interstate 26.

According to emergency radio transmissions, Unicoi County officers are searching for a male driver who may have run from the vehicle near mile marker 46 in the area of Hensley Road and the Old Asheville Highway. One deputy reported he fired shots at the vehicle in an attempt to flatten its tires.

A Madison County, North Carolina, K-9 unit is helping officers in the search for the man.

Check back here for more on this story as it develops.

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