By John L. Ross
A Louisiana man found guilty on federal charges Feb. 5 faced the music in Whitley County Circuit Court Monday.
Thomas William Bunn, 26, was scheduled for arraignment Monday on charges related to a police chase in October.
Bunn, however, made things easier for prosecutors.
He pleaded guilty in court Monday to two counts of first-degree fleeing or evading police, once by motor vehicle, the other on foot, and first-degree criminal mischief.
That plea earned Bunn a 7-year sentence in Whitley County.
But the detention center will wait for some time — he must serve his sentence for federal charges first.
According to an affidavit submitted by Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives Special Agent Todd Tremaine, Bunn’s crime spree began soon after his release from a Louisiana correctional facility for felony bank fraud charges.
Bunn was released from state custody in August 2012 and absconded from his parole in mid-October. At that same time, St. Tammany Parish, La. sheriff’s detectives were investigating two residential burglaries near Bunn’s residence, one of which Bunn admitted he was the driver.
Through their investigation into the burglaries, St. Tammany Parish detectives learned Bunn was driving a truck registered to his father, who requested a tracking device be placed on the vehicle.
That led detectives to Jackson County, Fla.
On Oct. 22, a burglary was reported in that county, during which a Tactical Weapons Solutions AR-15, .223-caliber rifle was reported stolen.
Tremaine stated in the affidavit that during questioning, Bunn admitted he was running out of money in Florida and burglarized a home there.
That’s when the Louisiana detectives turned their focus to an online database called “LEADS,” which allows law enforcement officials nationwide to see if stolen weapons end up in pawn shops.
LEADS showed the rifle appeared in the Fast Cash Pawn Shop in Williamsburg. Williamsburg Chief of Police Wayne Bird advised that gun had been pawned by Bunn for $300.
But Bunn’s crime spree was not yet over.
On Oct. 29, Corbin Police were dispatched to the Days Inn at Exit 25 of I-75 exit to investigate reports of a suspicious vehicle. Patrolman Kyle Gray found the vehicle in question, a truck, and when he went to question the driver, that driver fled the scene.
The driver was Bunn.
Police pursued Bunn onto northbound I-75, where he led law enforcement officials on a 24-mile high-speed chase, at times reaching speeds exceeding 100 mph.
The vehicle chase ended about Exit 49, but not before Bunn damaged or disabled five law enforcement vehicles. He abandoned the vehicle and fled into the woods on foot.
A search of the abandoned truck uncovered a pawn ticket for the AR-15 with Bunn’s name and address listed, as well as 20 rounds of ammunition for the weapon. Corbin Police Detective Rusty Hedrick received information from a confidential informant that Bunn was staying at a Whitley County residence, where he was arrested.
Corbin Police charged Bunn with 15 counts of first-degree wanton endangerment to officers, three counts of first-degree criminal mischief and one count each of fleeing or evading police by motor vehicle, first-degree fleeing or evading police by foot, speeding 26 mph or more over the posted speed limit and reckless driving.
Prior to his February felony charges, Bunn already has three felony convictions under his belt. Two convictions came in 2004, one for possession of cocaine and the other for unauthorized use of a motor vehicle. His third felony conviction of bank fraud came in 2009.
Bunn is scheduled for sentencing for his federal charges May 7 before U.S. District Judge Danny C. Reeves. As part of his federal plea agreement, Bunn pleaded guilty to charges of possession of a firearm by a convicted felon.
Bunn could face up to 10 years in federal prison, and be fined as much as $250,000.