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Robbery suspects arrested after high-speed chase on I-20

COVINGTON, Ga. – Covington police arrested three men suspected in a string of armed robberies after some observant police work and high-speed chase on Iinterstate 20 early Saturday.

According to the Covington Police Department incident report, Officer Aaron Malcom saw the gray Chrysler Pacifica driving eastbound on the access road toward U.S. 278 at about 2 a.m. The vehicle matched a BOLO (be on the lookout) notice given a few days prior of a vehicle suspected of being involved in multiple armed robberies across several jurisdictions, including the Exxon station on Highway 278.

When Malcom ran the temporary tag on the vehicle, it reportedly came back to two owners - one with an address in Grayson and one with an address in Decatur. According to the report, one of the victims of a robbery at the Exxon had tracked a phone that was taken and the phone was shown to be in DeKalb County.

According to the report, Malcom followed the vehicle as it passed multiple points of entry to I-20 westbound until it eventually stopped at a red light at Highway 278 and Highway 142 where the Exxon station is located.

The vehicle then turned left and traveled north on Highway 142 until it turned onto I-20 heading west. According to the report, Malcom initiated a traffic stop on the vehicle on the interstate just before mile marker 90 near the Alcovy Street  (Georgia 81) bridge.

Malcom approached the Pacifica and asked the driver where they were coming from and where they were going. According to the report, they began to say they had been to a party and were headed back to Decatur. When the driver was asked for his license, he reportedly said he left it at home on his dresser. While Malcom was speaking with the driver, the vehicle began to pull forward but stopped shortly after and Malcom ordered the driver to put the vehicle in park.

After making initial contact with the occupants of the Pacifica, Malcom returned to his patrol car to make contact with Officer Travis Pierce who had arrived for backup.  Malcom and Pierce returned to the Pacifica to attempt to identify its three occupants.

While the officers were attempting to identify the van’s occupants, Pierce radioed for another unit.  When the third officer responded that he was en route, the driver reportedly floored the gas pedal of the van with both officers standing next to it, nearly striking Pierce.

As the van sped off, Pierce and Malcom returned to their patrol cars and gave chase. According to the report, the van turned off its lights just past the Highway 81 bridge and turned them back on as it approached the U.S. 278 exit.

Malcom and Pierce continued pursuit of the Pacifica passing mile marker 88 at speeds in excess of 90 mph. According to the report, after passing the Almon Road exit, the vehicle began to slow to speeds of 50 to 60 mph with its occupants appearing to look for a place to flee on foot.  The vehicle then crossed over to the far left lane and slowed to a stop about 2 miles west of the Almon Road exit.

According to the report, once the vehicle came to a complete stop, the driver, later identified as 34-year-old Jasper Keels, and the front seat passenger, 38-year-old Thomas McGee, jumped from the driver’s side door and began to flee on foot.  The pair jumped over the median wall and crossed over I-20 eastbound toward the access road near Belmont Baptist Church. Pierce and Officer Kevin Thompson pursued Keels and McGee into the woods. The backseat passenger, identified as 34-year-old Wendell Lewis, stayed in the van was taken into custody shortly after it came to a stop. Keels and McGee were captured.

Keels, Lewis and McGee, were transported to meet with investigators. The van was transported to the CPD impound lot to be stored for further processing as evidence. Items from the scene were reportedly taken into custody and stored in evidence.

Keels, of Lithonia, is charged with giving a false name, fleeing to elude for felony offense, obstruction, possession of cocaine and driving on a suspended license. McGee, of Riverdale, is charged with giving a false name and obstruction. Lewis, of Decatur, is charged with giving a false name.

Keels and McGee remained in the Newton County Detention Center as of Friday afternoon.