Teen driver faces attempted murder

Isaac Hunter Pennington

A Lenoir City teenager is facing attempted first-degree murder and numerous other charges after he attempted to flee from a traffic stop.

Loudon County Sheriff’s Office Deputy Clay Jenkins attempted to conduct a traffic stop at 2:30 p.m. Thursday at the intersection of Old Highway 95 and Hotchkiss Valley Road East after seeing the driver, Isaac Hunter Pennington, 19, was not wearing a seat belt and knew he was driving without a valid license.

Pennington, in a green 2005 Acura ATL, increase speed and nearly hit Deputy Keith Swinney’s vehicle after Jenkins initiated his lights.

“Mr. Pennington fled on Harrison Road reaching speeds of 90 mph in a 30 mph zone,” Jenkins wrote in a report. “He then did not stop at the stop signs at the intersection of Harrison Road and Norwood Street and another intersection of Loudon Ridge and Hubbard Road while driving on the wrong side of the road passing cars in the wrong lane of travel.”

Cpl. Lance Anderson was stationed ahead at the intersection of Old Sugarlimb and Sugarlimb roads.

“Up ahead of the pursuit, Cpl. Lance Anderson positioned himself to pull spike strips on the other side of the road,” Jimmy Davis, LCSO chief deputy, said. “... He was beside his car in a ditch line off the roadway, his car was in the lane of travel. As the car approached he started to attempt to pull the string and pull those across. Pennington was actually headed straight for Cpl. Lance’s car and ended up taking a left and going off the road toward Cpl. Anderson, almost striking him. Instead of going on the roadway and on the opposite lane of traffic where Cpl. Anderson’s vehicle was, he went off the roadway toward Anderson where he was posted up to pull the string, barely missing him, and then coming back out on the road and then wrecking and that’s when we took him into custody.”

Davis said deputies believe Pennington intentionally tried to hit Anderson.

After wrecking, Pennington attempted to flee on foot but was taken into custody.

Jenkins could smell a “strong alcoholic beverage” coming from Pennington, who refused to perform field sobriety testing or give a blood sample.

“Upon search of the vehicle I then located a glass pipe used to smoke methamphetamine in the back of the driver seat,” Jenkins wrote in the report. “It was then found that Isaac had three warrants out of Blount County and had a suspended driver’s license, confirmed through dispatch. Contact was then made with the back seat passenger, Elizabeth Kress, who was found to have one active warrant out of Loudon County.”

Kress told deputies she begged Pennington to stop the car.

Both were taken to Loudon County Jail. Kress was found with 0.63 grams of a crystal-like substance, according to the report.

Davis said it lately seems law enforcement calls are becoming more dangerous.

“Obviously, we had the shooting a couple of weeks ago where officers were shot at,” he said. “This one an officer was almost struck with a vehicle that was pursued. Pursuits are going up. I’m not sure whether people just don’t feel they need to stop or think we won’t pursue them, but it just seems to be getting more dangerous for the officers as well as the community as people are just refusing. Usually, obviously there’s a very good reason why they do not stop when we try to do a traffic stop on them and it’s just hard to have that judgment call of what’s more of a danger — the pursuit or them being just to let them go. That’s a very difficult decision and we have to evaluate those every time someone fails to stop and we call a pursuit, we have to evaluate what is more of a greater danger to the public, the person being out of custody or the pursuit itself. That’s something we take very seriously.”

Pennington was charged with evading arrest, reckless endangerment, aggravated assault, attempted first-degree murder, underage driving while intoxicated, violation of implied consent, driving on a revoked/suspended license, traffic control device, use of safety belt in a passenger vehicle, driving on roadways laned for traffic, speeding 21 mph over limit, resisting arrest, due care, reckless driving, vandalism and possession of drug paraphernalia and held on $182,000 bond.

Elizabeth Kay Kress, 30, Philadelphia, was charged with contraband in a penal institution, violation of probation and manufacture, delivery, sale or possession of meth and held on $32,000 bond.

A juvenile male also in the car was not charged.