‘I just made a call and gave a tip:’ Bristol, Va man helps police catch escaped inmate

BRISTOL, VA (WJHL) – Bristol, Va Police Department officials said they were able to arrest escaped inmate 30-year-old Stephen Thompson Thursday night after a tip lead them to the Ballpark Corner Market on Randolph Street.

Thompson was heading into jail for obstruction of justice, among other charges on Wednesday when police say he escaped through an open door. He is also believed to be involved in a string of burglaries in Washington County, Va.

Police told us Friday that they believe someone helped Thompson stay hidden as agencies from across our region and even U.S. Marshalls looked for him. They also revealed they have a person of interest, someone whom they think is involved.

Andy Payne, who lives just down the road from Ballpark Corner Market, said he recognized Thompson as he made his way through the store Thursday night.

“He stepped out the door and I asked Cathy, wasn’t that the escapee and she said I’m pretty sure it was,” Payne said.

He called police after striking a conversation with Thompson. He said Thompson gave him a generic name.

After the call, investigators made their way to the market and looked at their surveillance video.

“It confirmed after I reviewed the video that it was him,” Sergeant Steven Crawford said.

Sgt. Crawford said they then searched the area. They even found the items he bought inside.

“An officer arrived on the scene quick because he was in the area and I think upon sight of that police car he ran,” Sgt. Crawford said.

Neighbors said he was hiding in a crawl space not far away in the 700 block of Wagner Road. In less than two hours a K-9 officer lead investigators right to Thompson.

“He came out and he met the officers,” Sgt. Crawford said.

Ballpark Corner Market employee, Crystal Green said Thompson is a regular.

“He’s a normal customer that’s came in over the past six months, never caused any problems,” Green said.

Green also said he bought multiple items and paid with cash.

“He had bought some chips, Doritos, Gatorade and maybe some cigarettes,” Green said. She added that employees were shocked to find out that Thompson was on the run; “you can’t always just judge a book by it’s cover,” Green said.

Payne said he just wanted to help and he doesn’t want any special treatment.

“I ain’t taking no credit, I just made a call and gave a tip,” Payne said.

Investigators are still working to put the puzzle pieces together but they’re sure he had help.

“The day before we had a man that was basically in his underwear and a t-shirt no shoes, but last night he had a shirt and shorts and shoes on and he had money in his pocket,” Sgt. Crawford said.

Crawford added that he feels Thompson’s escape was an isolated incident. “The sheriff has commented on it. he probably should have been handcuffed and secured in some way. there was a moment where he was moving from the jail area to the booking area so he was free for the moment,” Sgt. Crawford said. He thinks there will be a closer eye on the jail now.

Washington County, Va Sheriff’s Office officials say Thompson faces burglary and grand larceny charges there and additional charges are expected as they continue to work through evidence. Bristol, Va Police have charged Thompson with escape and he was already charged with possession of ammunition by a felon and obstruction of justice. Sgt. Crawford said he’s held without bond.

Copyright WJHL 2017. All rights reserved.


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