SLIDELL, La. - Two men with ties to Champaign County are in custody in Louisiana on a variety of charges, including shooting at a police officer in a New Orleans suburb with a Champaign County sheriff's deputy's gun.
According to information from Champaign County Sheriff Dan Walsh and Lt. Rob Callahan of the Slidell, La., police department, authorities in Champaign County were tipped last week that Tobie Gillespie, 23, of Danville, and Douglas Jamison, 21, of Champaign, were armed and headed for Mexico.
The source was Gillespie's girlfriend from Danville, Callahan said.
?According to the source, they said they would use the gun against anyone who got in their way,? Callahan said.
Through information from the girlfriend, Champaign County sheriff's investigators linked Jamison and Gillespie to burglaries to three cars in St. Joseph that occurred on the night of March 11.
One of those vehicles was an off-duty sheriff's deputy's squad car from which a .45-caliber handgun and a gun belt were stolen. Another of the burgled cars was a Department of Conservation car.
Earlier that day, Jamison had walked away from his job at a fast-food restaurant in Peoria and failed to return to the Department of Corrections work release center in that city. He was there serving the balance of a five-year sentence he received in February 2002 for a burglary to an Urbana apartment in March 2001. Corrections officials had issued an arrest warrant charging him with escape.
According to Callahan, the girlfriend relayed information about Jamison and Gillespie's plans to sheriff's investigators, who then alerted police in Slidell to be on the lookout for the pair. They were believed to be in a Ford Explorer stolen from Shirley, Ind., on Thursday. Callahan said his department received the alert at 1:27 p.m. Friday.
About three hours later, a Slidell police officer spotted the stolen Explorer on a major street in that city and called for help from other officers.
He said the officer was behind the Explorer, with no lights or sirens on, when Jamison stopped the Explorer in the middle of the road during rush-hour traffic.
?He jumps out with the .45 and fires three rounds at the officer behind him,? said Callahan. The officer, alone in his squad car, ducked.
?The first round hits the windshield and misses his head by mere inches. He lays down and Jamison pumps two more rounds,? one of which hit the windshield frame and the other the right front fender, Callahan said.
An officer arriving as backup saw Jamison shooting at his colleague and fired eight rounds through his windshield at Jamison, striking him once in the right forearm.
?He's moving in his police unit while firing. It was wild,? Callahan said of the backup officer.
Jamison then got back in the Explorer and took off, hopped the median, and ran cars off the road in the process. When the Explorer pulled into a bank parking lot to do a U-turn, officers could see Gillespie pointing the gun out the passenger window, Callahan said.
That prompted another barrage of gunfire from the officers chasing the Explorer for 3 to 4 miles along the busy road. The Explorer was hit by gunfire and shortly after, ran into the rear end of a truck that was stopped to make a left turn. Jamison then lost control of the Explorer and it went into a ditch, Callahan said.
Both men jumped out. Gillespie was caught immediately without a problem but Jamison ran into a nearby swampy, wooded area. Officers set up a perimeter and with the help of the department dog, found him.
Callahan said Jamison was fighting with the dog and ignoring commands from the dog's handler to give up. He sustained bite wounds to the neck, face and the same arm that was shot, Callahan said.
He eventually gave up and was arrested at 5:12 p.m., about a half hour after the officer had first spotted the Explorer. Callahan said the stolen gun was found in the Explorer.
Jamison and Gillespie have criminal records, including convictions as juveniles for stealing cars in Champaign County in 1997. Both have served time in the Illinois penitentiary.
Callahan said they face a variety of charges, including attempted first-degree murder of the police officer; possession of a stolen firearm; possession of a stolen vehicle; possession of cannabis and drug paraphernalia; resisting arrest by flight; and theft of a license plate.
Callahan said the pair had swapped the license plate of the Explorer they were in with another at a parking garage at the Slidell Memorial Hospital.
Walsh said in Champaign County they face burglary charges in connection with the vehicle break-ins, but Callahan said prosecution on the Louisiana charges would likely take precedence.
Walsh said he was investigating whether leaving a gun in a squad car violates county policy.
?Weapons are frequently kept in police cars. That I can think of, we've never had a deputy's car broken into before,? he said.
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