CLAY COUNTY (KFDX/KJTL) — It was near the Jolly Truck Stop around 7:37 Monday night when Clay County Deputy Breanton Chitwood approached a white Cadillac sedan during a routine traffic stop, but it quickly changed course.
“You never want to have to experience that, either as the officer or as those officers’ supervisors, but in this case, it couldn’t have gone any better,” Clay County Sheriff Jeff Lyde said.
The suspect fired a shot as soon as Chitwood was in range, hitting him 6.5 inches below the neck, hitting his bulletproof vest and saving his life.
“That’s one of those things that’s always better to have it and not need it than need it and not have it,” Lyde said.
“The concern is that we get complacent because we seldom have an issue like this, but I think last night drove home the point that we’re not immune to the violence and problems that society has in America,” Clay County Judge Mike Campbell said.
It was one of the first things Sheriff Lyde wanted to do when he took office in January, measuring all deputies for new Kevlar vests, and in this line of work, it pays to be prepared.
“It does remind us how dangerous it is for DPS, for our deputies and police officers everyone involved, you just never know if you’re going to go home at night,” Campbell said.
Agencies all over, from Electra to Vernon to Archer City, Holiday, even Oklahoma, with Cotton and Jefferson County joined in the manhunt effort.
About 11 hours after the shooting, the vehicle was recovered in Wichita Falls in an alley at 1100 block of Brook Street. Now, Lyde says it’s only a matter of time.
“If I’m running around in your vehicle shooting people, you’re going to give me up just like that, and he will too, you know as soon as, they’re caught, we just haven’t got them yet,” Lyde said.
“You got to wonder what he was running from to stop and shoot and deputy, there’s something big going on and so they got to find him and put a stop to it,” Campbell said.
And no matter how long it takes, or where the at-large shooter is, they won’t let up.
“My investigator hadn’t been home or been asleep since yesterday, the chief and I got about four hours of sleep and we’re right back in here doing what we’re doing trying to find this person,” Lyde said. “If you shoot at one of our officers we’re going to use every resource we can to find you, even if it means we have to chase you to the ends of the earth to find you.”
Sheriff Lyde said with the amount of evidence investigators found in the car, they are expecting to have a suspect in the near future.
Additionally, Crime Stoppers is offering a $5,000 reward and Sheriff Lyde offered to match that with another $5,000.
The Fresh 48 reward of an extra $500 is still in effect for another 24 hours and the Hunt County Sheriffs Office is also offering a $1,000 reward, for a total of $11,500 if the suspect is caught in the next 24 hours.
If you have any information on this crime, call Crime Stoppers at 940-322-9888.