By Keeli Parkey
One of the three Washington County teens involved in a wreck during a pursuit on Monday, June 20, by county law enforcement officers has died.
Sheriff Mike Hensley told The Erwin Record the teen, who was the lone female in the vehicle, passed away around midnight on June 21. She had been in critical condition at Johnson City Medical Center. She has been identified as 14-year-old Lacey Burton of Embreeville, Hensley said. She has also been referred to as Lacey Briggs.
The male juveniles are 14- and 15-years-old. Their names have not been released by law enforcement. The 15-year-old was the driver of the vehicle and Lacey’s brother, according to law enforcement.
The pursuit, which traveled from Unicoi County into Washington County for approximately 15 miles, began after the Unicoi County Sheriff’s Department received a 911 call reporting a robbery that had allegedly occurred on Rice Creek Road in the Flag Pond community.
“At approximately 12:30 p.m. we received a 911 call,” Hensley said. “A person had been robbed and tied up in his residence. He was able to free himself and went to a deputy who lived close by and used the phone to call 911.
“A (be-on-the-lookout) was put out on the suspect’s vehicle. My chief deputy (Frank Rogers) and other officers spotted the vehicle a short time after the 911 call around Exit 40.”
Hensley said Rogers attempted to stop the vehicle, however, the driver refused to stop and exited Interstate 26 and drove down State Route 81 into Washington County. The Washington County Sheriff’s Office was notified of the pursuit, which turned right onto Cherokee Road, Hensley said.
As the vehicle, which was later identified as a 2000 Ford Ranger owned by the victim, approached the intersection of Cherokee Road and Charlie Hicks Road, the driver lost control of the truck.
According to a crash report by the Tennessee Highway Patrol and shared with The Johnson City Press, “while negotiating a curve, (the truck) lost control and over corrected. As a result, (the truck) rolled several times before coming to a final rest on its top …” Burton was ejected from the vehicle. None of the passengers were wearing seatbelts, according to the THP report.
It was not until after the crash that officers learned the three suspects were teenagers, according to Hensley.
“All these subjects were juveniles,” he said. “Of course, we did not know that at the time of the call. The call was vague on what had happened, other than that the victim had been tied up and held at knife point and had been assaulted.”
Hensley said he believed the officers in pursuit, which also included an Erwin police officer and, later, Washington County deputies, acted appropriately.
“They went by the book,” he added. “All of it is on video. We have witnesses to the crash. They lost control of the vehicle and rolled the vehicle several times. None of the officers’ vehicles made contact with that vehicle whatsoever.”
At the crash scene, officers reportedly found two handguns and a large hunting knife.
During the investigation into the robbery, Hensley said officers learned an adult had dropped the juveniles off at the Rice Creek residence where they waited on the victim, identified as Roger Briggs, 58, to return home.
“When he returned, they grabbed him and assaulted him,” Hensley said. “They held him at knife point. They tied him up and placed him in a closet.”
Bungee cords and a belt were used to bind Briggs, according to the sheriff.
The motive for the alleged robbery stemmed from an altercation between Briggs and his brother, which reportedly took place on Saturday, June 18. Briggs reportedly owed his brother, who is the grandfather of the siblings, $100.
“They went up there to collect the debt,” Hensley said.
Briggs was taken to JCMC on June 20 and was in serious condition. He did receive serious injuries, according to Hensley. “They beat him,” Hensley said. “He had blunt-force trauma to his head and about his body.”
He was listed in stable condition on June 21.
The trio reportedly stole Briggs’ truck, as well as chainsaws, and fled the scene after the reported assault.
The UCSD is expected to charge the juveniles with especially aggravated robbery, aggravated burglary, aggravated kidnapping, theft of a vehicle over $1,000, theft over $500 and evading arrest. Charges by the THP are pending, according to its report.
No charges have been placed against the person who dropped the juveniles at Briggs’ residence. The driver reportedly had no idea what the juveniles were planning.
The male juveniles were being held in the Juvenile Detention Center in Johnson City.
They were scheduled to appear in juvenile court in Washington County on Wednesday, June 22.