Tuesday, February 17, 2015

Man who stole airplane to serve 15 years in prison

Henderson County Jail

ATHENS, TEXAS — A punishment hearing was held last Thursday afternoon for Joshua Paul Calhoun. After a full afternoon of evidence and testimony, the presiding Judge Dan Moore sentenced Calhoun to serve 15 years in the Texas Department of Criminal Justice in the Institutional Division.

Assistant district attorneys Nancy Rumar and Justin Weiner prosecuted the case on behalf of Scott McKee’s Henderson County District Attorney Office.

After the hearing Assistant District Attorney, Justin Weiner, stated: “Henderson County and all of East Texas should be immensely proud of the collective efforts of their law enforcement officers in bringing Calhoun to Justice. We had the cooperation of federal law enforcement officials and local law enforcement from multiple states. Their testimony in court insured that this very dangerous man is behind bars.” Assistant District Attorney Rumar stated: “The fact that so many out of town officers were willing to come testify speaks volumes for the type of history that Calhoun has with law enforcement. I am glad that we have people willing to drive over 20 hours round trip to testify against him.”

Back on December 10, 2014 Calhoun was indicted by a Henderson County Jury for Evading Arrest or Detention with a Motor Vehicle and also found that he used the vehicle as a Deadly Weapon in the course of committing the offense. The jury, composed of 8 woman and 4 men, convicted Calhoun in only 8 minutes.

During the punishment hearing, the assistant district attorney’s presented evidence of various other crimes that Calhoun had committed in the past. In one of those crimes, the Court heard from Federal Customs Border Patrol Agent Cynthia Sandoval. Agent Sandoval was stationed at the Falcon Dam port of entry when she attempted to search Calhoun’s vehicle upon his entry into the Country. When she received information that he was armed and dangerous he tried to get away. In the process he dragged Agent Sandoval over 40 feet with his pickup truck. After a pursuit had ensued, Calhoun escaped and remained at large.

Athens Police Department Officer Michael Reynolds testified about his dealings with Calhoun when has stolen an airplane from the Athens Municipal Airport. Reports show that Calhoun stole an airplane without any flight experience and was able to fly the airplane for a period of time until it crashed into the woods.

Finally, Henderson County Investigator Michael Shelly and Patrol Deputy Tracy Dunnington testified about a time that Calhoun stole a tanker truck. Traveling at speeds over 50 mph on a country road, Calhoun crashed the truck and ran on foot. The Operations Manager for the owner of the tanker relayed the sheer terror that he felt when he found out that the tanker still had 4,000 gallons of diesel fuel inside it. Fortunately the theft, which occurred just outside of Shreveport Louisiana, was tracked by a GPS monitoring device on the truck. Sergeant Kevin Ainsworth of the Greenwood, Louisiana Police Department coordinated efforts with the Henderson County Sheriff’s Office to locate the tanker.

Calhoun’s conviction stemmed from a June 18, 2014 incident where Henderson County Sheriff’s Deputy Cynthia Clements received information that a black 2002 Dodge pickup truck, that was reportedly stolen by Joshua Calhoun, would be traveling South on highway 155 crossing Lake Palestine. Deputy Spencer Gray made visual contact with the vehicle and began to follow it confirming that the license plate matched that of the stolen truck. Deputy Clements followed Deputy Gray as the pickup truck turned onto County Road 4222. Failing to yield to Deputy Spencer’s lights and siren, the pickup truck sped up down the one land County Road.

The jury watched video captured by dash cameras which showed extremely dangerous maneuvering by Calhoun in the pickup. Reaching speeds of 90mph, two bystander’s vehicles were run off of the road. Calhoun drove at high rates of speeds through turns and at one point cut through the front yard of a home. After miles of speeding down various County Roads, Calhoun temporarily got away while forcing through the entry of a hay pasture. Deputies would ultimately find the severely damaged and no longer drivable pickup at the very end of the pasture right in front of an opening into a heavily wooded area.

Multiple agencies were called out and responded to assist in what became a manhunt involving upwards of 25 officers. Officers with the Henderson County Sheriff’s Office, Department of Public Safety, Frankston Police Department, Coffee City Police Department, and even tracking dogs from the Texas Department of Criminal Justice where used to help located Calhoun who began running through thick woods on foot.

Investigator Michael Shelley of the Henderson County Sheriff’s Office patrolled part of a four mile perimeter used by the Command Staff of the Sheriff’s Office to contain Calhoun. Investigator Shelley, a member of the East Texas Auto Theft Task Force, noticed Calhoun on the porch of a steel building attempting to blend in with his surroundings. When Investigator Shelley approached Calhoun, he ran towards a brick home and ultimately fled toward a nearby tree line. Calhoun, when pursued at gunpoint by Investigator Shelley, ultimately gave up and identified himself when he was taken into custody. Calhoun was found approximately one mile from where the stolen pickup was found.

Eventually, the pickup was processed for evidence and Investigator Shelley located several items of evidentiary value. He located a check made out to Calhoun which was folded in a Bible, a Whataburger receipt, and a Kroger’s receipt. After acquiring the surveillance footage from both businesses, Investigator Shelly identified Calhoun in the black pickup going through the drive-through at Whataburger only 14 minutes before the pursuit began. The jury watched surveillance footage from both locations which provided damaging evidence to the defense.

District Attorney Scott McKee praised the work of all the agents involved in bringing Calhoun to justice. “I’m glad he is off the streets and behind bars.” Said McKee. McKee also indicated that he was proud of the coordination with the different agencies in testifying at the punishment hearing. “Some of these law enforcement officials traveled many miles to testify at the hearing, many on their own time.”

Story and photo:  http://www.ketknbc.com

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