A U-Haul crash turned manhunt caused Interstate 14 to be shut down for three hours and significant backups near Nolanville on Friday morning. Police arrested 25-year-old Charles Smith and charged him with fleeing the scene of a crash, felony vehicle theft and burglary of a building/business out of Temple.
Just before 7 a.m., police were called out to the crash between the eastbound and westbound lanes of I-14. Police were told a U-Haul hit a guardrail, causing the vehicle to drive into the culvert and flip over.
When police arrived, thinking the call was for a rescue, they believed the driver might be stuck underneath the vehicle.
The vehicle was moved and no one was found, so a helicopter was called for assistance.
"That was a very serious accidents because of the damage to the truck," Nolanville Police Chief Daniel Porter said. "That raised some suspicion when they were unable to locate the individuals."
The Nolanville Police Department called the Bell County Sheriff’s Department for assistance and then contacted U-Haul for information about the wrecked truck. U-Haul told police the truck was stolen out of Temple overnight Thursday.
"In addition to looking for an injured person, we had to take the public safety into account too because if you have a suspect there, you can be a danger to passerby and other citizens," Porter said.
The Bell County Sheriff's Department brought in its search dogs to assist.
"They helped us determine that a person had left the scene and the general direction that they probably went," Porter said.
While searching for Smith, police received a call from a gas station employee who reported seeing a wet and muddy man with several scrapes on his body and face. A clerk from the gas station where he was apprehended also called police to report seeing Smith.
Smith was taken to the hospital with minor injuries and was later transported to Bell County Jail.
The Temple and Nolanville Police Department are continuing to work together in the investigation.
Police have identified and are looking for two other suspects believed to connected with theft of the truck.
Multiple agencies including Bell County Constables, Nolanville police, Belton Fire and Rescue and Texas Department of Public Safety assisted.
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