ABC larceny suspects arrested after multiple car chases through Smithfield

Published 6:12 pm Friday, March 15, 2024

Two suspects accused of stealing $1,300 worth of alcohol from the South Church Street ABC store are in custody after leading Smithfield Police and Isle of Wight County sheriff’s deputies on three separate car chases March 14 and 15.

The first pursuit began at 9 p.m. on March 14 shortly after the reported theft and continued for nearly an hour. Police say driver Tia Browne, 41, of Newport News, and passenger Christopher Cheek, 34, of South Boston, collided with an uninvolved car at the corner of Benns Church Boulevard and South Church Street, causing injuries to its occupants, and then fled northwest toward the Isle of Wight-Surry county border where Browne was apprehended. Police say Cheek fled on foot into the nearby woods and evaded capture for roughly nine hours despite a coordinated search by the SPD, Sheriff’s Office, Virginia State Police and Windsor Police Department that included K9s.

The mayhem resumed the morning of March 15 when the Sheriff’s Office received a call about a man sleeping in the back of someone’s vehicle at a home in Rushmere. Before deputies could arrive, Cheek allegedly stole a nearby car that was unoccupied but left running. The resulting 15-mile chase from Rushmere to the county’s border with Suffolk, which began around 7 a.m., was “terminated due to safety concerns,” according to Smithfield Police Lt. William Wooley.

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About 20 minutes after crossing the Suffolk border, a license plate reader camera captured an image of the same vehicle reentering Isle of Wight, at which point the Sheriff’s Office took over the pursuit. The third and final chase ended in the parking lot of the Smithfield Hardee’s on South Church Street at approximately 8:30 a.m.

A video of the chase published to a Smithfield community Facebook group at approximately 9 a.m. on March 15  shows officers shouting, “Show me your hands!” at the driver.

According to Deputy Alecia Paul, a spokeswoman for the Sheriff’s Office, Cheek allegedly exited the vehicle at Hardee’s and unsuccessfully attempted to carjack an elderly woman in the drive-thru. Deputies again chased him on foot, this time apprehending him before he could leave the parking lot, Paul said.

Browne faces charges of grand larceny, conspiracy to commit a felony, felony evade and elude and felony hit and run.

Cheek also faces charges of grand larceny, conspiracy to commit a felony, felony evade and elude and obstruction of justice with additional charges from the Sheriff’s Office pending.

Police have not released the age or locality of origin for either suspect.

“These arrests conclude a perilous chain of events that put the safety of our community and its officers at risk,” Wooley said. “The Smithfield Police Department, along with the involved agencies, commend the dedication and bravery of all officers and personnel involved in these incidents. We are relieved to have brought these individuals to justice, ensuring the safety and security of our community.”

Editor’s note: This story has been updated with the ages and place of residence for both suspects.