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Suspect dies after being tazed by deputy

by Emily Waldrep

On June 1, 2016, at approximately 8:25 p.m., Tyler County Deputies conducted a traffic stop on FM 92 near FM 1746 in the Town Bluff Area. According to Tyler County Sheriff Bryan Weatherford, deputies stopped a 2002 passenger car for a traffic violation.

During the traffic stop deputies were able to identify the driver of the motor vehicle as a resident of Woodville. The male passenger provided deputies with a false name and was unable to produce any type of identification.

"While speaking with the passenger, Deputies noted he exhibited possible signs of being under the influence of some type of narcotic," Weatherford said. "As deputies returned to their patrol vehicle in an attempt to ID the male passenger and check for warrants on both occupants of the vehicle, the male passenger exited the vehicle in an attempt to evade deputies on foot."

According to Weatherford, a deputy chased the male passenger on foot into a wooded area as the second deputy detained the driver of the vehicle. The suspect refused to comply with the deputy's commands and the deputy deployed his Tazer, striking the suspect. The suspect, later identified as Michael Cassell, age 41, of Kountze became unresponsive on scene and deputies performed CPR on Cassell until EMS arrived, Weatherford said.

Cassell was transported to the Tyler County Hospital, where he was pronounced dead by Justice of the Peace Trisher Ford. An autopsy was ordered by Judge Ford regarding Cassell's cause of death. Those results could take over 6 weeks to be released. It was later determined that Cassell had multiple outstanding felony warrants for his arrest out of Sabine County and was in possession of illegal narcotics. The Texas Rangers were contacted and are investigating the incident.

Tyler County EMC reports on recent Tyler County flooding

by Dale Freeman, Tyler County Emergency Management Coordinator

When I woke up Friday morning (May 27) it was just the last day of a regular week. There was rain predicted but never did I realize what was ahead for us in Tyler County. In the afternoon, rain was falling all across the county. Some areas were receiving more than others. In the Colmesneil area, the rain was falling like water poured out of a bucket.

As the rain continued, water began flooding roads all across the county. The Sheriff's Department began dispatching services to the wrecks that accompany rain events. The creeks and small streams overflowed their banks. There was just too much water placed upon the area for it to run off. The water started flooding and began threatening homes. Water was rising into places that had never had water in them before. The Sheriff's Department started getting calls for help from people whose homes were surrounded by water. And the water was still rising.

As all of those scenarios were developing, I got a call from Lake Amanda. I was told that the water was overwhelming their spillway. The overflow standpipe spillway was already under water. The Emergency Spillway was overflowing. Now the water was overflowing the dam. Lake Tejas was experiencing a similar situation upstream of Lake Amanda. The sudden 10 inch plus rainfall in a short time was now draining into the lakes and stressing them, threatening to cause a dam failure. We began an immediate plan of action. No sooner than I made my notifications and briefed the emergency responders with this plan than the call was received than the Lake Amanda Dam had failed.

Sheriff's Deputies immediately responded to Wolf Creek Village on Wolf Creek near where it crosses Hwy 92 near Dam B. A mandatory evacuation was executed. The water rose and went through that community with high water flooding some homes. Many of the homes in this community are elevated on pilings nine to eleven feet off the ground. Of course, the houses that were elevated did not get water in them, but many of their vehicles had up to four feet of water in them. Most everyone had a lawnmower that went under water. Anything that was not elevated was flooded. I interviewed several who told us the door to door warning by the Sheriff's Deputies gave them enough time to save some of their belongings.

The water crossed Hwy 92 at the intersection of CR 3007 and the Magnolia Ridge Park Road. The rushing water actually washed the pavement off the road in one place. This massive amount of water from all over made its way into the creeks and streams and then into the Neches River and Lake Steinhagen.

Friday was not the end of my week. In fact the next week started with more situations piled on the ones we were still dealing with from the week before. The water from the localized flooding started piling into Steinhagen Lake. As the lake rose, the gates were opened. The Corp of Engineers chased the level of the lake trying to overtake it with the release of water. The gates can only be opened by protocol a little at a time. The result from the release of the flood waters was flooding in the Barlow Lake Estates Addition.

The water rose to a level where the water was in some homes and there were some breaker boxes and meter cans under water. The power to Barlow Lake Estates was disconnected as a safety measure for both the residents who remained and first responders who might go in after them.

As the water from the localized flooding started down, we maintained an eye on the River Gauge Level and the Flow Rate of the River at Rockland. Localized flooding also occurred in the upper watershed of the Neches River. We watched the river at Rockland rise, knowing that water would be impacting Steinhagen Lake in eighteen to twenty-four hours.

As the water receded, the level of Steinhagen Lake went down and the outflow of water through Town Bluff Dam was decreased. When the water receded from Barlow Lake Estates to the point that power could safely be restored SHECO turned the power back on.

In a case of the worst possible timing, the river crest from upstream heavy rain arrived at Steinhagen Lake at the same time as we were receiving more heavy rain. The rain caused the release of more water from the Town Bluff Dam which led to rise in the river and additional flooding at Barlow Lake Estates. The River rose to a crest of 75.65 and Friday afternoon(June 3rd) seems to have turned the corner and is starting down. It appears that we might just squeak by with no additional flooding, but it is still raining and is predicted to rain more on Saturday (June 4th).

Our Red Cross Shelter at the True Vine Church remains open. We have four people in the shelter. Anyone displaced by this weather incident can come to the shelter and receive shelter. At some point when the evacuation is lifted, the shelter will be closed and the Red Cross will shift its focus of attention toward helping in the repopulation of those areas that were evacuated.

On Sunday (June 5) the Corp of Engineers began closing gates on the Town Bluff Dam. In a series of exercises, the gates are finally down to 21 ft. The River Level is down to 69.5 feet and should drop a little more. The Corp Of Engineers plan is to keep the river at full bank level for a while as they evacuate stored water from Lake Sam Rayburn. They will begin generating very soon.

We are not complete with this event, only now are we starting with the road to recovery.

Lake Amanda dam breaks, residents downstream of Wolf Creek evacuated

by Emily Waldrep

With all of the rains inundating Tyler County and the surrounding areas, residents have been dealing with major flooding, road damage and dangerous road closures for what seems like months now. In the most recent rain event, almost 12 inches of rain was dumped over the Colmesneil area, which resulted in flooding, road wash outs and a major breach of the Lake Amanda Dam.

On Friday May 27, at approximately 6 p.m, Tyler County Emergency management gave word that the Lake Amanda dam in Colmesneil had broken, and that a mandatory evacuation would be issued to those living downstream of Wolf Creek. Many homes located along Wolf Creek were damaged or flooded, and many families were displaced from their homes. Lake Amanda no longer holds any water. Residents along the lake have already held a meeting to discuss rebuilding the dam, and although it will be a long road and large project, they are determined to get Lake Amanda back to its former glory. Lake Tejas dam was also extremely stressed during the rain, but held up. The culvert under the driveway into Lake Tejas however, did not fair so well, and completely washed out.

The Corps of Engineers also opened the gates at Town Bluff to 50 feet, prompting a mandatory evacuation of Barlow Lake Estates.

Tyler County Game Wardens along with the National Parks service, Tyler County Deputies and local Volunteer Fire Departments assisted with water rescues throughout the heavy rains, with one rescue being extremely high risk to both the rescuers and the victims.

According to Tyler County Emergency Management, a call came into dispatch that a car had been swept from the road on FM 92 North of Dam B on the Wolf Creek Bridge. The caller stated that the car had went underwater and completely submerged. A second caller, who identified herself as the wife of the motorist, frantically reported that her husband was in the water and had been able to call her on his cell phone. Dispatch was able to contact the motorist, who reported that he was clinging to a tree above the flood waters and that he had had to break the window out of the car to escape. Dispatch was able to keep him on the line, and he reported that he was getting tired and didn't know how much longer he could hang on.

Once rescuers arrived, boats could not get to the man, who was still clinging to trees. Game Warden Roy Chad Eddins bravely entered the water to take a life jacket and a line to him. Eddins was in the water for 32 minutes before he was able to make it to the victim and get both himself and the victim out of the swift current.

With more rain in the forecast, all Tyler County residents should ALWAYS turn around when thinking about crossing a spot with water over the road. It is often hard to tell how deep or swift the water is moving, and it does not take much to float a vehicle. Turn around, don't drown!

Lake Tejas closed for repair

Lake Tejas in Colmesneil incurred severe damage from the flooding and will be closed to June 18, per CISD Superintendent Matterson.  As seen in the photo, the entrance culvert was washed completely away. (Michael Maness Photo)Lake Tejas in Colmesneil incurred severe damage from the flooding and will be closed to June 18, per CISD Superintendent Matterson. As seen in the photo, the entrance culvert was washed completely away. (Michael Maness Photo)

by Michael G. Maness

Lake Tejas will be closed to June 18, right in time for Father's Day, reported CISD Superintendent Angela Matterson.
Mindful that some may want to use the lake still, Matterson wished that all respect the closure for safety's sake. From the recent flooding, not only was the front entrance drive totally washed away, but the runoff from the Dishman Lake caused other problems, some still hard to assess. There were reports of large railroad ties and perhaps some sunken logs. Until the lake is fully drained they will not be able to see all the debris. The sand from the shore has washed into the lake and other damage still to be accounted for remains to be assessed.

Fortunately, the new drain valves worked fine, and a new culvert will be forthcoming as repairs and cleanup ensue. Matterson thanked Tyler County Commissioner Mike Marshal for his assistance and expertise and noted how the Tyler County Sheriff's Office had to block the road for a time.

Matterson noted that closing the lake was done with a "heavy heart." She feared some felt the lake community property, and, indeed, it was to a degree. Even though owned and maintained solely by the school, the lake is a Colmesneil tradition. They open it on Memorial Day and close it on Labor Day, and she really did not like to close it. Herself a Colmesneil-bred woman that grew up here and maintained a home here all her life, she knows how dear Lake Tejas is to so many as it is dear to herself as well. She learned how to swim in that lake. She feared some might climb past the barricades to explore and use the lake anyway, and she just implores all to be patient and wait until the repairs are complete. They will get the lake open as soon as possible.

Woodville man wanted on gun, drug charges

by Emily Waldrep

On Monday, May 16 a report was made to the Woodville Police Department that a verbal disturbance was occurring between two men at a residence on the 500th Block of Cobb Mill road.

According to Captain Mike McCulley of the Woodville Police Department, Sergeant Hicks arrived at the residence and made contact with a male subject that stated he was threatened by another male with a gun.

"Officers located the suspect, identified as Lynn Thomas Hunter, age 29, of Woodville standing across the street but could not locate a weapon, and after he was interviewed he was later released," McCulley said. "Further investigation concluded that the victim was approached by Hunter regarding retrieving his sons backpack."

After a discussion about the backpack, Hunter became angry and retrieved the backpack from a vehicle parked nearby, and then retrieved a pistol from it and began to threaten the victim with it.

"The victim stated that once he called the police, Hunter left the scene with the backpack and the pistol," McCulley said. "This story corroborated by several witnesses."

Officers later recovered the backpack and inside of the backpack found a 9mm semi automatic handgun along with several drugs and drug related items.

Officers later obtained two warrants of arrest for Hunter, charging him with Deadly Conduct and Unlawful Possession of a Firearm by a felon.

These warrants are currently outstanding as Hunter has not been located. If you have any information as to the whereabouts of Lynn Thomas Hunter, please contact the Woodville Police Department at 283-5262. Your information and identity can be kept completely anonymous.

Deputy shoots suspect who tried to run over him

by Emily Waldrep

On Wednesday, May 18 at approximately 1:30 a.m., Tyler County Deputies received a call reporting that someone shot a firearm at a residence on County Road 4950, located in the South End of Tyler County in the Fred area.

According to Tyler County Sheriff Bryan Weatherford, a deputy was able to locate a vehicle matching the description of the suspected shooter's vehicle on FM 92. The deputy attempted to stop the suspect vehicle with the use of emergency lights and siren but the vehicle refused to stop.

"The suspect vehicle continued to travel on FM 92 at a high rate of speed, again continuing to refuse to stop for the deputy," Weatherford said. "The fleeing suspect vehicle turned onto County Road 4700 and continued at a high rate of speed. Then, the suspect vehicle attempted to turn onto County Road 4726, where the driver lost control and slid into a ditch."

The driver then regained control and traveled down County Road 4726, turning into a residence driveway. As the vehicle slowed, the Deputy observed a white male flee on foot into the woods. The vehicle then stopped behind a residence and as the Deputy approached the driver, later identified as Reuben Anderson, age 24 of Fred, he attempted to run over the deputy.
"The Deputy fired one-round from his duty weapon, striking Anderson in the leg," Weatherford said. "Anderson Was flown to a Beaumont hospital with non-life threatening injuries."

As with all officer involved shootings, the Texas Rangers are investigating.

Later in the afternoon, deputies were able to locate and identify a man believed to be the one that fled on foot from the suspect vehicle. Tyler County Deputies and Texas Rangers continue to investigate with possible charges pending.
Reuben Anderson is currently in the Tyler County Jail charged with Aggravated Assault Against a Public Servant and Evading Arrest with a Vehicle.