City of Orange police arrested a total of three men after two of the suspects led them on a four-hour chase through swampy terrain and heavy woods Tuesday, Nov. 5, near the Bluebird Fish Camp off Simmons Drive in Orange.
OPD Captain Eric Ellison said police received a call at about 8:20 a.m. from OnStar security personnel regarding a stolen vehicle at a convenience store in the 300 block of Lutcher Drive in Orange. Upon investigation, police discovered there were two Chevrolet Camaros stolen from a car dealership in Lafayette, La., that were parked side-by-side at the convenience store. Officers located three suspects with the vehicles. One suspect was immediately taken into custody, Ellison said, but the other two fled west on foot toward property near American Airboat Corp.
“Well, I saw the police running on the property, I ran out to find out what was going on and asked if I could help,” said American Airboat’s general manager Sallie Haynes, who assisted in the manhunt by piloting police personnel in her boat. “They said no, but about 30 minutes later they ran in and said, ‘Get your airboat, and let’s go.’
I said, OK, let’s go!’”
The two suspects originally ran west toward the home of American Airboat’s owner Stan Floyd but “looped around,” according to OPD Captain Cliff Hargrave, and ended up crossing under Interstate 10. Once on the south side near Simmons Drive, they fled through the woods and jumped into the swampy water there, making their ways toward a wooded area near Bluebird Fish Camp. Police shut down Interstate 10 eastbound lanes near Simmons Drive while searching for the suspects. Law enforcement officers from OPD, West Orange Police Department, Lake Charles Police Department, the Texas Department of Corrections, the Orange County Sheriff’s Office, and the Calcasieu Parish Sheriff’s Office assisted in the manhunt. Pinehurst Police Department was at the scene, as well. TDC officers deployed dogs and officers on horseback during the search. The OCSO utilized its airboat and was assisted by Haynes on a second airboat provided by American Airboat owner Stan Floyd. Steve Taylor provided police with the use of his private helicopter. Orange County Assistant District Attorney Douglas Manning also reportedly volunteered his services and piloted the whirlybird during the extensive pursuit.
A few minutes after noon, West Orange Police Lt. John Tarver, who was on the scene monitoring the action via radio, said the suspects were still at-large.
“They’re running hard,” he said. “It’s over a stolen car.”
Tarver asserted then that the pursuit would soon end with the suspects in custody. He said the helicopter made it possible to get a good look at just where the suspects were and where they were headed.
“The helicopter is the cake,” Tarver remarked.
Chatter could be overheard on the police radio, and law enforcement officers were clearly closing in on the suspects at 12:20 p.m.
“I’ve got eyes on them,” a voice rang out across the airwaves.
One minute later, someone declared one of the suspects was in custody. Then, after a few more minutes of excited chatter, a man yelled out over the radio, “Sheriff, he’s about 20 yards away from you laying beside that tree!”
By 12:29 p.m., both suspects had been apprehended and cuffed, then loaded onto the OCSO airboat.
Haynes piloted her boat and brought back officers and a police dog, and Sheriff Merritt —barefoot and drenched up to his chest by muddy water — piloted the second one in which the suspects rode. The suspects, who appeared dirty and exhausted, were then loaded into a police car by OPD officers and taken to the Orange County Jail.
“They were shivering,” Haynes said, describing the suspects. “Like they were hypothermic. They were in there for a while.”
Merritt said by the time he caught up with the suspects, they were obviously worn out from their attempt to elude authorities.
“They were tired,” said Merritt. “We didn’t have far to go to catch them. We got to within about 60 yards from them and then got out of the boat. They gave up pretty easy.”
Haynes said she was happy to help and actually had fun testing her airboat in different conditions than what was usual.
“It has a few new lumps and bumps, but it did great,” she said if the machine, which has her nickname, coined by her work crew, stenciled onto it — “Dragon Lady.” “I just thought, ‘Go for it!’ ‘No’ is not in our vocabulary. I got to do something cool and serve the community. And they got the bad guys!”
The suspects were identified as 20-year-old John Malbrough of Lafayette, La., 20-year-old Daron Davis of Lafayette, La. and 20-year-old Cleon Green of Broussard, La.