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Two Unicoi County deputies injured in high speed pursuit on I-26

Sue Guinn Legg • Mar 14, 2018 at 11:32 PM

FLAG POND — Two Unicoi County sheriff’s deputies were injured Tuesday night in a crash that ended a high-speed pursuit on Interstate 26 near the North Carolina line.

Deputies Josh Bailey and Nick Hughes were treated at the Unicoi County Memorial Hospital emergency room after the crash, which happened around 7:30 p.m. near mile marker 52 about two miles south of the Flag Pond exit.

The suspect in the chase, Joey D. Clipse, 38, Roan Mountain, was not injured in the crash. He was charged with multiple offenses, including driving under the influence of a intoxicant, possession of methamphetamine, felony reckless endangerment, felony evading arrest and aggravated assault with an automobile.

He was arraigned on the charges Wednesday morning in Unicoi County Sessions Court and is scheduled for a hearing on Thursday. He was being held in the Unicoi County Jail under $42,000 bond.

According to a report from the Tennessee Highway Patrol, Johnson City police initiated the pursuit after attempting to stop the pickup truck Clipse was driving on suspicion of drunken driving.

According police radio traffic, the driver refused to stop and Johnson City officers pursued the truck at speeds of up to 100 mph eastbound on the interstate into Unicoi County, where Unicoi County and Tennessee Highway Patrol officers joined the pursuit.

Other county officers positioned themselves ahead of the truck at Exit 37 near downtown Erwin and placed spike strips across the interstate in attempt to stop the pickup. With Johnson City officers still leading the pursuit, the truck reportedly moved to the left side of the interstate to avoid the spike strip and continued eastbound at an estimated speed of 95 mph with what officers believed was a right rear tire going down.

As the truck left Erwin, the pursuing officers aligned their vehicles for a rolling roadblock that was canceled near the Clear Branch exit at Flag Pond.

As the chase continued up the mountain toward North Carolina, a pursuing deputy passed and moved in front of the pickup and was attempting to slow it down when the truck passed the officer and continued to flee at high speed.

The deputy was attempting to move in front of the pickup again and a second officer was attempting to pull alongside the truck when their police radios went silent. Medical units were called to the scene a short time later.

The THP reported the deputies were attempting a rolling roadblock near mile marker 52 when Clipse rammed the patrol car Bailey was driving, causing both vehicles to crash.

Unicoi County Sheriff Mike Hensley said later Tuesday night one deputy was suffering from back pain and the other deputy had cuts to his hands caused by broken glass.

Email Sue Guinn Legg at [email protected]. Follow her on Twitter @sueleggjcpress. Like her on Facebook at facebook.com/sueleggjcpress.

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