Shooter initiates high-speed chase

Published 9:27 am Wednesday, August 8, 2012

An incident that started with more than a dozen shots fired near Bogalusa’s Avenue B ballpark Sunday and included a high-speed chase through the city and beyond towards Varnado, ended with one man injured and another in custody.

Chief Joe Culpepper said the Bogalusa Police Department got a complaint that shots had been fired near the stop sign at Avenue B and West 9th Street shortly before 7 p.m. There were people in the ballpark, but they were safely in the “back field” and seemed to have no connection to the shooting, he said.

Responding officers found a Lincoln Navigator with at least 13 bullet holes in it. Although there were three people in the SUV at the time, only the driver, Ansel Magee, 33, of Bogalusa had been hit. He was treated at LSU Bogalusa Medical Center for a non-life-threatening injury to his leg, Culpepper said.

But the incident was far from finished.

“The initial complainant gave a description of the suspect vehicle,” said Culpepper. “Our dispatcher gave out the information and a patrol car was able to find the vehicle on Richmond Street near Zesto.”

The patrol officer turned on his lights and siren, and the chase began. The suspect vehicle took off north on Richmond Street at speeds in excess of 80 miles per hour, he said.

“It ran several cars off the road, ran the red light at (Louisiana Highway) 21 and Louisiana Avenue, and turned north on 21 at speeds of 80 to 90 miles per hour,” Culpepper said.

As the driver neared the city limits, he was travelling at more than 100 miles per hour, he said. The Washington Parish Sheriff’s Office was notified.

The high-speed chase continued north on Louisiana Highway 21.

“He was still reckless, running cars off the road,” Culpepper said. “At Highland Church, he turned on (Louisiana Highway) 436 toward Varnado.”

At that point, the BPD officer managed to get in front of the suspect, but lost him. A WPSO deputy quickly located and stopped the vehicle.

“Another deputy was flagged down by a witness who said he saw our perpetrator throw a pistol out of the car,” Culpepper said. “The deputy was able to retrieve it and turn it over to the BPD.”

Gary Garcia Varnado, 34, of Bogalusa was charged with three counts of attempted first degree murder, assault by drive-by shooting, illegal use of a weapon or dangerous instrumentalities, being a convicted felon in possession of a firearm, aggravated obstruction of highway and flight from an officer.

“It appears the beef he and Magee had with each other was domestic,” Culpepper said. “It was not apparently drug related.”

Varnado is no stranger to law enforcement.

He pled guilty to two counts of manslaughter in 1998, served time in prison and only got out about a year ago, according to the BPD.

A conviction for just one charge of attempted first-degree murder would mean up to 50 more years in prison, Culpepper said.

“This might be it for him,” he said.

The chief said he was pleased that there were no additional victims.

“The timely response helped us catch the bad guy without anybody else getting hurt,” Culpepper said. “The effort of shift personnel and the follow-up by detectives gave a quick closure to what could have been a disaster.”