Suspect in high-speed chase could face life in prison

Suspect in high-speed chase could face life in prison
A Toyota Tacoma hit spike strips deputies had set out at U.S. Highway 371 at U.S. Highway 80 north of Dixie Inn then went airborne and landed on a car parked at a restaurant. KSLA News 12 viewer Kaleb Gallups caught it on camera. (Source: Kaleb Gallups)
A Toyota Tacoma hit spike strips deputies had set out at U.S. Highway 371 at U.S. Highway 80 north of Dixie Inn then went airborne and landed on a car parked at a restaurant. KSLA News 12 viewer Kaleb Gallups caught it on camera. (Source: Kaleb Gallups)
Kevonte Dekorey Austin, 18 (Source: Bayou Dorcheat Correctional Center)
Kevonte Dekorey Austin, 18 (Source: Bayou Dorcheat Correctional Center)
Durioki Hawkins, 23 (Source: Bayou Dorcheat Correctional Center)
Durioki Hawkins, 23 (Source: Bayou Dorcheat Correctional Center)
(Source: Semmie Buffin/KSLA News 12)
(Source: Semmie Buffin/KSLA News 12)

WEBSTER PARISH, LA (KSLA) - A technical college student says he was not looking at his phone when he filmed a stolen pickup going airborne during a police chase.

"I just immediately started backing up ... . I was just worried about back-pedaling," Caleb Gallups said.

"And as he came through, I mean, I just kind of, as my body motioned, I had my phone in my hand and just miraculously got everything."

The truck ramped a ditch, took off in the air and landed on a Toyota Corolla parked at a restaurant.

"Anybody that's probably in the right state of mind was like, 'I cannot believe this was actually happening," said Gallups' friend Austin Fletcher. "I mean, he came, from where we were sitting, he came directly at us. "

Gallups said he and his friends immediately ran over to the parking lot, where the woman in the parked car somehow survived without a scratch.

Meantime, officers swarmed to catch the truck's driver.

After the crash, he ran and tried to steal another car, Webster Sheriff Gary Sexton said.

"He had got out and was trying to carjack two girls," Gallups said.

Now the 18-year-old accused of leading police on that chase Tuesday in Webster Parish faces a charge that could land him in prison for life.

Police say Kevonte Dekorey Austin was at the wheel of the stolen Toyota Tacoma that went airborne after it hit spike strips in Dixie Inn early Tuesday afternoon, ending a chase that reached speeds of 115 mph.

The pickup came crashing down on the Corolla parked at Nicky's off U.S. Highway 371.

Austin now faces 1 count each of:

  • Attempted first-degree murder of a police officer
  • Aggravated flight
  • Theft of a motor vehicle
  • Aggravated damage to property
  • Attempted carjacking
  • Reckless operation

He could be sentenced to up to life in prison if convicted as charged with aggravated first-degree murder of a police officer.

That charge was filed because Austin allegedly rammed a deputy's vehicle during the chase.

"It's kind of the mentality that you're dealing with somebody that's kind of like, 'Just hold my beer and watch this. I'm gonna show you what I'm fixin' to do!' You know, no regard for law, no regard for public safety," Sexton said.

Another person also has been charged in connection with the chase.

Police say 23-year-old Durioki Hawkins was driving the Tacoma when he was pulled over for driving 79 miles per hour in an area with a speed limit of 55 mph.

Austin slid behind the wheel and took off when Hawkins got out of the truck during the traffic stop, authorities said.

Hawkins has been charged with 1 count each of speeding and illegal possession of stolen items.

Both men are being held at Bayou Dorcheat Correctional Center until the Webster district attorney's office approves the charges.

Meantime, Austin has two warrants for his arrest in Caddo Parish, according to Caddo Sheriff's Office spokeswoman Cindy Chadwick. But he will not be returned to Caddo Parish.

Austin was serving time for a previous auto theft and a probation violation in which he led police on another wild chase that ended with a crash when he disappeared Feb. 8 from his work-release program at Halco Productions in Shreveport.

Caddo sheriff's detectives think he stole another employee's Ford Ranger at that time. That truck has since been found.

Austin now is a Louisiana Department of Corrections inmate.

As such, Chadwick said, he might be transferred to David Wade Correctional Center near Homer.

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