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HOLMBERG: man killed in stolen police car crash was deeply troubled

RICHMOND, Va. (WTVR) – The 32-year-old Richmond man who stole a police car early Monday afternoon  and immediately crashed into a warehouse at a high rate of speed – killing himself – was wanted for failure to pay child support and was due in court next week on a grand larceny change.

“He was not in his right frame of mind,” a friend of the family told CBS-6 News.

Timothy R. Howerton was dead within minutes of a 12:30 p.m. 911 call about an armed, wanted man who was near the 7-Eleven at Jefferson Davis Highway and Walmsley Boulevard in South Richmond.

The responding officer saw  a man matching the suspect’s description two blocks away,  at Castlewood Road, police said.

Richmond police Maj. Steve Drew said when the officer approached the suspect, the man grabbed a gun from his waistband.

The responding officer pulled his own pistol as he moved into a defensive position near the rear of his cruiser.

The suspect jumped into the marked police car and sped away on Walmsley  back towards Jefferson-Davis Highway, crossing that major intersection at a high rate of speed.

According to the police accident report, the stolen police car continued at a high rate of speed as it tore through a chain-link fence at the end of the road and then smashed into warehouse loading dock with such force, the car flipped over and burst into flames.

The report gave no official estimate of the speed at impact, but it is believed to have been going close to 90 mph.

No shots were fired during the confrontation, police said. The police car crashed at about 12:40 p.m., less than 10 minutes after the original 911 call about the armed suspect.

Howerton was certainly familiar with the area. He lived four blocks from where he died, at 2706 Walmsley, near where the officer spotted him.

The 2nd precinct, sector 212  patrol officer involved is a relatively young officer whose actions will also be investigated. A police car is considered to be a very valuable and important resource.  As search of local news databases does not show a police car being stolen by a suspect in  a quarter-century.

In 1988, a handcuffed suspect was able to slip his handcuffs in front of him and slither into a front seat of a Virginia State Trooper’s car in Louisa County and speed away. He crashed about a half-mile away and was eventually caught.

Police investigators were told that Howerton owed as much as $20,000 in child support. He was wanted on a warrant for non-payment in Colonial Heights, a police source said, which is apparently what triggered the 9-1-1 phone call that brought police.

Records show Timothy Howerton was issued a business license last year for A to Z Cleaning Services at his Walmsley Boulevard residence.

Those at  the home today, including an uncle, declined to comment about him.

The dangerous and eventually deadly confrontation comes a month after the desperate actions of another man deeply troubled by child support debt.

Russell Brown III of Chesterfield  owed $35,000 in child support was due in court because of it when he fatally shot Virginia Trooper Junius Walker on March 7. Walker had stopped beside Brown’s disabled vehicle on Interstate 85 to see if he needed help when Brown shot the trooper multiple times.

Court records show Howerton had a long history of arrests for assaults and driving infractions and other charges both in Richmond and in Colonial Heights, but not many convictions. Currently, he was also in trouble for failing to pay a drunk driving fine.

The family friend said Howerton also had a drug abuse problem that had left him behaving erratically.

Howerton was due to be tried in Richmond Circuit Court for a grand larceny that allegedly occurred last summer, on June 23.

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