Charlotte, TN – A 27-year-old woman was booked on nearly two dozen counts for allegedly climbing through a partition from the backseat of a patrol car while handcuffed and taking off with a deputy’s vehicle.
The incident occurred in the early-morning hours of April 26, when a Dickson County Sheriff’s Office (DCSO) deputy spotted a vehicle with a taillight out near the intersection of Water Street and Dotson Street, WTVF reported.
“It was very minor,” DCSO Sergeant Jennifer Caruthers told the news outlet. “It could have been a simple traffic stop.”
But instead of pulling over, 27-year-old Jennifer Cunningham attempted to flee, according to police.
“Ms. Cunningham turned around, took out a mailbox and took out her tire in the process,” Sgt. Caruthers told WTVF.
A brief pursuit ensued until Cunningham’s vehicle “became disabled,” the DCSO told WSMV.
The suspect allegedly “resisted” deputies’ efforts to arrest her and was tased during the ensuing struggle.
Cunningham was ultimately arrested on a DUI charge and several other offenses, WTVF reported.
Deputies handcuffed her and placed her in the back of a patrol car at approximately 1 a.m.
But the suspect managed to slip her handcuffed wrists from behind her body to her front, then wedged herself through the partition window that separated the back seat from the front of the patrol vehicle, WTVF reported.
Sgt. Caruthers said the window is extremely small, but noted that Cunningham “is a smaller female” and managed to “scoot through.”
Bodycam footage captured the deputies’ reactions when they realized the suspect was behind the wheel of the cruiser.
“She’s in the front,” one deputy said.
“Oh my god…” another commented.
The suspect frantically threw the car into drive and slammed into an unoccupied patrol car parked nearby as she attempted to flee the scene, WTVF reported.
“Had the other vehicle not been sitting there, she could’ve easily hit one of our deputies,” Sgt. Caruthers said.
Sgt. Caruthers said a deputy deployed his Taser, but that it had no effect on Cunningham, WKRN reported.
“The Taser affects everybody differently. Most people, it gets that pain compliance with them and they will stop in their tracks, but some people rather it be under the influence of alcohol or drugs, they could just, you know, be so amped up that it’s ineffective,” the sergeant explained.
Reaching into the running patrol car to apprehend the combative suspect was also a risky move for the deputies.
“It can be dangerous when trying to reach into a vehicle that she’s got in gear, engine revving and still able to get the vehicle in park and get her out of the vehicle safely without any of them [being hurt],” Sgt. Caruthers told WKRN.
The deputies were able to subdue Cunningham after a brief struggle, and she was again placed into the back of a patrol car.
“I don’t think we’ve ever had a case like this before,” Sgt. Caruthers told WTVF. “I’m sure it has happened somewhere at some time, but this is our first.”
Deputies said that when they got to the jail, the suspect allegedly tried to sneak illegal drugs inside, WKRN reported.
Cunningham now faces charges of felony theft, second-offense driving under the influence, two counts of vandalism of government property, two counts of simple possession, two counts of tampering with evidence, felony evading, introduction of contraband, escape, fourth offense driving on a revoked license, halt, resisting stop, two counts of frisk, aggravated assault, two counts of reckless endangerment with a weapon, assault, and leaving the scene of an accident, WTVF reported.
The Tennessee Highway Patrol, which responded to the scene to handle the investigation into the crashed patrol cars, has requested Cunningham be charged for driving the patrol vehicle.
She was also arrested on an outstanding Dickson County warrant for failing to show up to court, WTVF reported.
Her bond was set at $166,000.
Cunningham was arrested last year on similar charges after she sped away from a traffic stop and nearly hit a deputy before crashing, WKRN reported.
“Hopefully, this will be a final lesson learned for this young lady,” Sgt. Caruthers told WTVF. “She’s got a lot of life ahead of her if she can get her life together. Maybe to learn from this incident.”
Cunningham is due to appear in court on May 17.