Eric Trace Smith, 33, who has remained in custody since his Jan. 8 arrest, pleaded guilty to aggravated assault on a law enforcement officer and was sentenced to 25 years in prison; for unlawfully discharging a firearm from a vehicle and was sentenced to 20 years in prison; He was charged with felony escape and sentenced to 10 years in prison. and possession of a firearm by certain persons, were sentenced to five years in prison, all concurrent.
Additional felony charges of four counts of kidnapping and four counts of aggravated assault related to four people who were in the car with him that he reportedly threatened to kill during the chase, and a misdemeanor count of drunken driving and multiple traffic collisions, were withdrawn. The charges were decided by time served.
Deputy District Attorney Caitlin Bornhoft said Tuesday that the others involved “were with him that day willingly, but then it turned into a chase and run from law enforcement, which they were not necessarily involved in or responsible for, but they were in the truck at the beginning”. Of their own volition.”
While Smith reported no prior local criminal history, Bornhoft noted that he had two prior Texas convictions for kidnapping, which made it illegal for him to own or possess a firearm at the time of the incident.
According to probable cause affidavits, on January 8, shortly after 8 p.m., Garland County Sheriff’s deputies were responding to a residence in the 200 block of Kevin Road, off Interstate 298 in Jessieville, after a 911 call about a shooting. During a disturbance.
Deputies were given a description of a black, four-door Dodge Ram pickup, which is the vehicle the shots came from. Deputy Candice Pressley was in the 2400 block of Highway 298 on her way to Kevin Road when she passed a vehicle of that description heading in the opposite direction.
I caught up with the truck as it turned into the Little Blakely Creek Cutoff and turned on my lights and siren and the truck accelerated at a high rate of speed “on a residential road.” The chase continued on Little Blakely Creek Road and Pressley noted they were traveling at 70 mph in a 30 mph zone “with homes in the area.”
In about the 1300 block of Little Blakely, Presley heard “what appeared to be two gunshots” and saw “several muzzle flashes” from a firearm pointed in her direction. She slammed on her brakes as the shots fired, and she reportedly saw a gun thrown from the moving vehicle.
The gun, a 20-caliber Mossberg shotgun, was located shortly after the pursuit ended and live ammunition and shells from the same caliber as the gun were later recovered from the truck.
The chase ended when the truck crashed near Crystal Ridge Lane and the sole occupant at that point, identified as Smith, was taken into custody.
At approximately 10pm that night, Deputy Christopher Brinsfield made contact with two men and two women who all stated they had been in the Dodge Ram before and during part of the pursuit.
One of the men stated that he was driving the truck when Deputy Presley came up behind it with Smith sitting behind him. When Smith saw the deputy’s car, he told the man to keep driving or “he would kill everyone in the car.”
The man said he kept driving until they lost sight of the sheriff’s car and then he stopped, he and the three other passengers got out and Smith drove away in the truck.
One passenger reported that she was sitting next to Smith when he did this and “clearly pointed the gun at the deputy’s vehicle each time he fired.” They all also stated that Smith told the one man to keep driving, “forcing them to be part of the chase or he would kill them all” and indicated that he pointed the gun at each of them.
They stated that once they were far enough away from the deputy, the driver stopped and they ran into the woods “afraid that Smith would shoot and kill them.” They said once they got out of the truck, Smith was no longer there and the truck sped off.
Smith was held on $125,000 bail and initially pleaded not guilty to the charges in Garland District Court on January 18. The case was transferred to Circuit Court on March 17, with some charges withdrawn and an additional charge of possession of a firearm by certain persons added after it was determined Smith was a felon.
A hearing was initially held on October 17, but Smith reportedly declined the state’s offers at that time, so the case was set for trial on November 28. At a pretrial hearing Tuesday, Smith chose to accept the offer and pleaded guilty.