By Russell Hood The Webster Progress-Times
One man is in custody and two remain at large after an officer caught them stealing mowers from Evergreen Ag last week, authorities say.
Mathiston Police Chief Roger Miller gave this account of Friday morning’s crime and ensuing search for the suspects: Officer Shane Box, while on patrol, saw three men at Evergreen Ag on U.S. 82 loading riding lawnmowers on a trailer shortly after 2 a.m. The men were in two pickups, both of which were later determined to have been stolen.
One pickup had been stolen in Copiah County a few days earlier. The other pickup and attached trailer had been stolen from the nearby campus of East Webster High School at the former Wood College shortly before then. The suspects had cut the chain on the U.S. 82 entrance to the lot to make entry.
The men fled in the pickup without the trailer when they realized Box had seen them, leaving the other pickup and loaded trailer, and wrecked on the EWHS campus. All were on foot about 2:30 a.m.
One of the men then stole a Chevrolet pickup from Albert Taylor’s residence on Willis Street. Miller, after spotting that suspect in Taylor’s truck, began pursuing him. The man crashed the pickup at the edge of the woods by the Red Kap plant west of Evergreen Ag and again fled on foot.
The Mississippi Highway Patrol and Webster County Sheriff’s Department had since joined in the search for the three men. Around 7 a.m., Sheriff Tim Mitchell apprehended one of them in the highway median near Dollar General.
Identified as Johnny Vanburen, 41, of Jackson, he was being held in the Webster County Jail as of Monday afternoon. Miller said he has charged Vanburen with two counts of grand larceny: one for the theft of the truck and trailer from the EWHS campus, and the other for stealing the lawnmowers from Evergreen Ag. The total value of the stolen property is about $50,000, according to Miller.
Jail records show that a “hold” has been placed on Vanburen by the Mississippi Bureau of Investigation, Oktibbeha County Sheriff’s Office and West Point Police Department. Information about any additional charges pending against Vanburen was not immediately available from the other law enforcement agencies.
The other two accomplices have not located and the investigation is ongoing.