JACKSONVILLE, Fla. (NNS) -- Nearly 70 Navy and civilian law enforcement personnel teamed up to track down a wanted suspect who crashed a stolen vehicle through a perimeter fence at Naval Air Station Jacksonville (NAS Jax) Sept. 24.
After crashing through the fence, the suspect hid in a densely wooded area aboard the air station.
Personnel and K-9 units from the NAS Jax Security Department, Jacksonville Sheriff's Office (JSO), Naval Station (NS) Mayport, Naval Submarine Base (NSB) Kings Bay, Ga., Navy Criminal Investigative Service (NCIS), Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission (FWC) and the NAS Jax-based U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) spent hours combing the densely wooded area on foot and in the air searching for the suspect.
Phillip Chason, 39, of Jacksonville, was found hiding in a recreational vehicle (RV) in a RV/boat storage lot within the area that was under heavy containment and constant surveillance by base police. He was apprehended and taken to a local hospital, under JSO police custody, for injuries sustained during the car crash.
Chason has numerous charges pending, including charges of theft of a motor vehicle, grand theft and probation violation, according to jail records.
"Unfortunately for the suspect, he picked the wrong place to run to," said Capt. Jeffrey Maclay, NAS Jacksonville commanding officer. "There was no way he was going to walk freely off our heavily guarded military installation. Our base security department, along with several other law enforcement agencies did an outstanding job tracking the suspect and apprehending him."
Maclay further praised the fine job done by all.
"I commend and salute them for the safe apprehension of the suspect within our heavily contained and secured hard perimeter search area," he said. "Their execution of force protection was flawless."
The incident began early Friday morning when a JSO officer observed the suspect driving a car at a high rate of speed. The tag was checked and the vehicle had been reported stolen. The suspect lost control of the vehicle and crashed into a fence on NAS Jax property. He then fled into the wooded area.
"We got the call at 4:26 a.m., JSO was in pursuit of a vehicle that went through the NAS Jax fence line near Building 938," said Sgt. David Bayot NAS Jax Security Department. "The individual managed to get out of the vehicle and proceeded to walk on down South Perimeter Road where he was confronted by an NAS Jax police unit. He then ran into the densely wooded area."
The area was immediately secured and there was no danger to personnel or housing residents. Law enforcement personnel and canine units were called in to assist. Also supporting the operation from the air were helicopter crews from FWC and CBP.
"The NAS Jax Security personnel involved in containing, searching and apprehending the suspect performed in a very professional fashion, and I am very proud of them," said Glenn Williams, NAS Jax director of security. "The entire law enforcement team worked around the clock under extreme heat and humidity. In partnership with JSO, FWC, NCIS, CBP, Union County Correction's Tracking Unit and security personnel NSB Kings Bay and NS Mayport they performed a Herculean task safely."
Navy Region Southeast Force Protection Program Director and Regional Security Director Bruce Toth said the collective team that came together for this event was impressive from start to finish.
"NAS Jacksonville's integrated security response to the intruder combined multiple 'outside-the-fenceline' law enforcement agencies from the surrounding area to contain the intruder, and protect military resources and personnel within the installation," said Toth. "As the search for the suspect continued throughout the day and into the night, the integration of follow-on Navy security teams from Mayport and Kings Bay provided timely relief on the containment area perimeter and exemplified the concept of 'One Team, One Fight.'
"The contingency operations employed by the NAS Jacksonville security force were textbook in execution, and the successful multi-agency integration was seamless. The endgame to this coordinated effort was a mishap-free capture of a fugitive felon within a relatively short period of time. I would like to thank everyone for a job well done and pass on a (Bravo Zulu) to all those involved," said Toth.
According to Randy Gommer, NAS Jax deputy director of security, all security breaches or threats are taken very seriously.
"Our law enforcement and security force personnel train extensively for rapid response to these types of situations," he said. "It was the combined efforts of local law enforcement and our NAS Jax team that contributed directly to the containment and capture of the suspect.
"The Security Department personnel are deeply committed to protecting the NAS Jax community and its essential global mission. We pride ourselves in our professionalism and law enforcement ability to combat any threat." Gommer said.
For more news from Naval Air Station Jacksonville, visit www.navy.mil/local/nasjax/.