Suspected car thief hurt as he leaps onto Riverwalk after chase

A suspected car thief today led authorities on a chase from Phenix City's Fourth Avenue across the 13th Street bridge into Columbus, where he sped through downtown before slamming the car against a railing over the Chattahoochee Riverwalk, then jumping off and plunging to the pavement below.

That's where his run ended, as the injured man lay there until Columbus medics got him on a gurney and took him to the hospital.

Russell County sheriff's deputies identified the suspect as Charles Earl Brunson, 45, who they said will face multiple charges both in Phenix City and in Columbus.

A witness, Michael Price, said he was at a BP gas station on Phenix City's Fourth Avenue about 4:45 p.m. when he saw the blue Buick Regal Custom speeding out of the parking lot, as a woman from the business ran out shouting that her car was being stolen. Price tried to follow the suspect.

"I heard her holler 'Hey!' and he threw it in reverse and he spun a reverse 180 and come out the BP," Price said. "He come that back way, like down Second Avenue through Phenix City, and I came down Fourth Avenue. He was coming, like, out of Riverview, and I tried to block him off right there, and he drove around me."

Price said he continued to follow the Buick until he saw Russell County deputies and Phenix City police behind him on the 13th Street bridge.

"I got out of the way and let them do their job," he said. The Buick went one block south on Broadway in Columbus before turning back toward the Chattahoochee River on 12th Street, said Price, who lost track of the pursuit there.

Russell County deputies and Phenix City police said no one else was injured in the chase, a fortunate outcome considering that the Buick hit a raised crosswalk so hard the hood flew up, blocking the driver's view. Still he continued south down Columbus' Front Avenue before turning west at Ninth Street, crossing under a railroad trestle and racing across Bay Avenue into a parking lot just south of the Dillingham Street bridge, officers said.

It was in the parking lot that he lost control, skidding sideways until the Buick slammed against the Riverwalk rail on its driver side.

That's when the driver got out and, confronted by a sheriff's deputy who ordered him to halt or be Tased, he leapt over the rail and plunged to the pavement below, a fall officers estimated at around 30 feet or more.