High speed pursuit ends in crash

Photo by David Kapitan A Terrell Police Department officer surveys the aftermath of a single-vehicle accident involving the suspect of an armed robbery attempt at a Terrell convenience store Aug. 18.

Law enforcement officials from both Kaufman and Van Zandt counties had their hands full on Tuesday afternoon after an attempted armed robbery of a convenience store in Terrell led to a high speed chase.

The chase ended when the suspect lost control of his vehicle just west of Wills Point.

According to reports, 22-year-old Matthew Colby Johnson, of Mineola, entered the GAS convenience and gas station on South Virginia Street in Terrell attempting to commit an armed robbery.

Store owner Fahed Fatayri then pulled out his own weapon, a .38 pistol, and fired a single shot that struck Johnson in the buttocks.

Johnson fled the scene, disposed of the weapon and set off on a high-speed chase that began with officers from the Terrell Police Department attempting to apprehend the suspect.

Johnson led authorities down Highway 80 going east at speeds exceeding 100 miles per hour.


Drivers, bicyclists, pedestrians reminded to think school safety

Students return to classrooms across Texas Aug. 24 and that means motorists will be sharing the roads with school buses, pedestrians, bicycle riders and lots of new teen drivers taking their first car to school.

According to the National Safety Council, teen car crashes spike in September when they are driving to and from school.

The council also cautions drivers young and old to be vigilant because child pedestrians can be very unpredictable. “They’re easily distracted and can often run into traffic or out from behind parked cars. Looking out for children rather than expecting them to look out for us is our best defense as drivers,” the council said.


Alligator gar topic of naturalist program

The East Texas Chapter of Texas Master Naturalist will meet Thursday, August 27th, for its regular monthly meeting.   

Spencer Dumont, Texas Parks and Wildlife Inland Fisheries Region 2 director, will present the program, “A Dinosaur Among Us, the Life and Times of an Alligator Gar.” 

The meeting will be held in The Nature Center at 11942 FM 848 in Tyler. The meeting begins at 6:45 pm.  The program will start at 7 p.m.  The public is invited to attend.

The multimedia presentation will highlight the alligator gar’s unique life history from spawning through old, old age.  Dumont will also review the history of alligator gar management, as well as the status of and distribution of alligator gar in Texas and the U.S.  


ESD #4 schedules public hearings on budget, tax rate

The Van Zandt County Emergency Services District #4 board, representing Wills Point and the surrounding area, held its regular monthly meeting at the Van Zandt County Regional Airport building Aug. 18.

The formation of the board became a necessity after voters approved the formation of an ESD to provide fire service by a 321-249 margin during the May election cycle. Applications were solicited for those interested in serving on the ESD board and Van Zandt County commissioners appointed Becky Monning, Larry Byford, Chuck Jennings Jr., Joe Arnold and Kenneth Byrd to serve.

The board met for the first time last month, selecting Byford as board president; Arnold, vice president; Byrd, secretary; and Jennings, treasurer.


FEMA looking for Texans to work at recovery centers

Texans will have the opportunity to assist with the state’s disaster recovery from the severe storms, tornadoes, and flooding that occurred from May 4 to June 22.

Dozens of qualified Texans will be offered temporary jobs as local hires of the Federal Emergency Management Agency  in its Austin, Denton, and Houston offices.

FEMA has partnered in this venture with the Texas Workforce Commission. Those interested may go to and create an account. Once logged in, click on “Search All Jobs” and type “FEMA” into the search bar.

Currently, there are several job categories posted:

•              Customer service

•              Logistics

•              Switchboard/Help desk

•              Project Specialist


Martins Mill ISD to hold auction

Martins Mill ISD will be having a sealed auction to sell some items that are no longer of value to the district, Superintendent James Oliver has announced.

Older band instruments, some props, sewing machines, older model TVs and other equipment will be available, Oliver said.

The auction will take place behind the elementary school (parent drop-off area) from 2 to 7 p.m. Friday, Aug. 21.

Items can be picked up until 8 p.m. that evening. Remaining items will need to be picked up between 8 a.m. and noon Aug. 22. 

“All sales are final. We do not guarantee the operability of any sold items,” Oliver said.

For questions regarding the auction, call 903-479-3872.


Trustees appoint Hancock as interim superintendent

The Wills Point ISD Board of Trustees hit their stated goal last week, finding an interim superintendent to fill the vacancy left by the resignation of Superintendent Suzanne Blasingame at the July 16 meeting.

Randy Hancock, formerly a superintendent with the Maypearl, Howe and, most recently, Royse City ISDs, was selected after a series of interviews with potential candidates conducted on Aug. 7.

The Wills Point ISD’s course of action was outlined for the public several days prior at a special called meeting on Aug. 3.


GS to host 5K run

Council proposed to keep tax rate steady

The Grand Saline Sports Boosters announced to the Grand Saline City Council Aug. 11 that the boosters will host a 5K Tribal Run Oct. 3.  The 5K will feature colored powder that will be thrown at people during the Tribal Run.

Cindy Gipson spoke on behalf of the sports boosters to ask for the council’s approval of using and designating certain streets of Grand Saline for the Tribal Run.  “It’s a powder so it will wash off it’s not anything that sticks permanently. It won’t ruin anything it may not look like it but it will wash off.” Gipson said. 

City Manager Rex White spoke to the council and said, “There will be police escorting the race, with one in front one in back to provide protection.”

The Tribal Run will be hosted to raise money for athletes to have a new track, uniforms or whatever kids need, Gipson explained. 


Squirrel triggers local power, phone outage

A rogue squirrel left Wills Point residents in the dark on August 8 causing a small fire at a local power substation while causing major power and phone outages across the area.

The incident disrupted services to local customers began before 8 p.m. and was first believed to be a transformer fire.

The Wills Point Emergency Management Facebook page, which offers updates and notices on happenings in the city, posted a notice stating: “Transformer fire has caused significant power outages in and around Wills Point. Local police and fire non-emergency numbers appear to be not working. All requests for Police, Fire and EMS need to call 911. Any urgent request for assistance with medical devices also need to call 911.”

Teams from Oncor and Trinity Valley Electric Co-Op responded to the scene to assess the damage and initiate repairs.


County goes under burn ban

Proposed tax rate set

A burn ban has been placed on the county for a period of 90 days, as approved by the Van Zandt County commissioner’s court Aug. 11.

Van Zandt County Fire Marshal Chuck Allen approached commissioners asking the county to be placed under a burn ban.

Commissioners approved Allen’s request to place the county under a burning ban Tuesday morning. With temperatures over 100 degrees, and no rain, the Keetch-Bryam Drought Index used by the Texas A&M Forestry Service to predict fire danger for the area, rates that the county is in the dangerous range and expected to rise.

Allen told commissioners that the county is at a level of 700 with the max level being 800.  

“Right now, we are at the 700 level, but that could potentially rise within the next two weeks to a 750. Unless we get some significant rain soon, we will remain under the burn ban,” said Allen.


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