MOUNT VERNON — When former Danville Police Officer Tom Looney was indicted on two felony counts and a gun specification by the Knox County grand jury in July, the warrant issued was a statewide warrant. This could possibly change, according to Knox County Prosecutor John Thatcher.
“I didn’t handle this particular case,” he said. “We didn’t think it was necessary to issue a nationwide warrant when he was indicted. But I don’t see any reason why we shouldn’t take a second look at it.”
Thatcher said it has been about a month since the indictment and the warrant were issued so he would consider upgrading the warrant to nationwide.
“The request made at the time of Tom Looney’s indictment was for a statewide warrant,” said Assistant Knox County Prosecutor Chip McConville. “He was charged with third and fourth degree felonies with a gun specification which is fairly serious.”
The Mount Vernon Police Department is trying a new tactic to let the public know about outstanding warrants in certain cases.
Starting this week the department began sending out notices to local media about persons with outstanding warrants along with pictures. These are the more hard-core cases where the department is anxious to get arrests.
“I think this is a good idea,” said Mount Vernon Police Chief Michael K. Merrilees. “And I think you’re going to see more of it. We have reason to believe these people are around town. They have been accused of some violent crimes and felonies and we have known people like this to have been hidden by family and friends. Sometimes the family and friends might not even know about them being wanted. So, we thought we’d get the word out so people would know about it.”
The first instance of this policy was the publication of facts of two warrants, one for Colton R. Spellman and the other for Joshua A. Pruitt. Both have outstanding arrest warrants and have been indicted for aggravated burglary and robbery.
“I think it’s going to be a great tool to use,” Merrilees added. “And some people might not know those guys are wanted and maybe we can get them brought to justice sooner. The sooner we can get these guys into jail and facing these charges, then maybe there will be less problems we will face from them.”
When an arrest warrant is issued for someone indicted for a crime, the scope of the warrant — local, statewide or nationwide — is determined at the time of issuance and is based on a number of factors.
“It comes through the prosecutor,” said McConville. “A felony that has gone through the grand jury process, if we want to issue a warrant, that request goes to the clerk of courts and we will ask for whatever scope of the warrant we believe is necessary. Either nationwide or statewide.”
McConville said the scope of the warrant usually depends on the severity of the crime.
“There are a number of factors that go into it,” he explained. “If you have somebody you know is going to go somewhere else, then you are much more likely to issue a nationwide warrant. Or, if you have no idea where the person is and they have committed [a crime] that is pretty serious, we would be more likely to issue a nationwide warrant. If you have someone who has committed a fifth-degree felony, for instance, we’re less likely to issue a nationwide warrant. So it also depends on how serious the crime is.”
McConville said the prosecutor’s office uses the nationwide warrant judiciously.
“When you have a nationwide warrant and someone is picked up on it, the county pays the cost of bringing them back,” he said. “So we don’t want to issue those willy-nilly because that could run into a lot of money.
“We’ve had a couple of prisoner transports in the last couple of years. We had a woman we brought back from Florida. Those transports cost us on a mileage basis. I think that one cost us $700. So we have to be judicious about it.”
A warrant can be issued at the time of indictment or if someone does not show up for an appointed court date. In the latter case a warrant might be upgraded.
Any person having information on the whereabouts of Spellman, Pruitt or Looney are asked to contact law enforcement at 397-2222 or 397-3333.