The Duncan Banner

Local News

February 24, 2011

Rawlings apprehended

Suspect for cattle thefts caught after chase and search

DUNCAN — Just after 11 p.m. Ralph Edward “Bubba” Rawlings III was arrested by Stephens County Deputy David Martin after a manhunt that lasted more then eight hours. He was apprehended on Eastland.

Rawlings was being sought in an investigation involving the theft of cattle.

A routine traffic stop by a Stephens County Sheriff’s Deputy earlier in the day resulted in more than 35 law enforcement officers from in and around Stephens County converging on the intersection of Elk and Waterplant Road, where they were stationed for most of the night.

Officers from the Stephens County Sheriff’s Office, Duncan Police Department and Oklahoma Highway Patrol responded to a manhunt for Rawlings late Wednesday afternoon after a high speed chase.

The chase began around 3:30 p.m. when a Sheriff’s Deputy stopped Rawlings and an unidentified female passenger for a simple traffic stop at Chestnut and N in Duncan. Rawlings was identified as a suspect in recent cattle thefts in Stephens County.

“The Deputy ordered him on the ground at gunpoint. The lady complied, the driver wouldn’t comply, he got in a tussle match with the Deputy, saying that he would not go back to jail. He then took off running, got in his vehicle and we issued pursuit,” Stephens County Sheriff Wayne McKinney said. “The woman kept begging him to do what we were asking him to do.”

Rawlings headed north on N, and then traveled east on Elk with deputies close behind. When he came to a dead end, Rawlings turned his vehicle around and came back west on Elk.

At the intersection of Elk and Waterplant Road, McKinney said a spike strip was laid out to flatten his tires.

“OHP threw out a spike stripe, blew his tires out and he lost it and went into the woods,” McKinney said. “I was at the intersection. He went through the intersection, and, then, I saw him go airborne. Then, I saw him go in there.

“By the time he had crashed and we got in on the vehicle, he was already gone.”

The truck came to rest roughly 60 yards in a wooded area just southwest of the Elk, Waterplant intersection. The truck sustained substantial damage. McKinney said Rawlings probably had some injuries as well from the crash. Officers, deputies and Highway Patrolmen quickly formed a perimeter around the wooded area and began sending in units to search. Two K-9 units was also dispatched to search for Rawlings, but he was not found.

A Oklahoma Highway Patrol helicopter was called to assist in the search around 6 p.m. with a Forward Looking Infrared Imaging System (FLIR) that would pickup Rawlings body temperature in the wooded area.

Around 6 p.m., Rawlings’ texted his ex-wife “I’m drawing my last breath,” McKinney said. McKinney did not know if Rawlings’ was taking his own life or he was severally injured by the accident.

At 7:47 p.m., a OHP Helicopter scanned the surrounding area to find Rawlings.

Just before 8:30 p.m., an entry team made up of Stephens County Sheriff Deputy Bobby Bowen, Lt. Rick Lang, Mike Wilson of the Duncan Police Department and Oklahoma Highway Patrol Troopers Kevin Crawford and Mark Smith entered a wooded area south on Waterplant Road after the OHP helicopter spotted a heat signature.

At 9:22 p.m., the OHP helicopter advised the ground units that it had lost visual contact through infrared goggles and the “FLIR” system and was unable to continue the search. The entry team was called back to the command post.

McKinney said the SCSO has been working with the Oklahoma Cattle Raisers Association and the Department of Agriculture to compile information on the cattle thefts that Rawlings is a suspect for.

Rawlings has been in and out of the penitentiary several times for similar charges.

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