EARLY — Early and Winters police released details Friday about a vehicle pursuit that began Friday morning after a traffic stop in Winters, and ended with a fiery crash next to the Aaron’s store in Early.
The driver of the four-door sedan, identified by Winters police as Jason Budnik, 30, of Nevada, was arrested on a federal warrant and magistrated at the Brown County Jail. Budnik was taken back to Runnels County and booked into jail there on the federal warrant with state charges pending from multiple law enforcement agencies, Winters police said.
Two female occupants of the car were taken to hospitals. One was treated for minor injuries and released, and the other was transferred to Hendrick Medical Center in Abilene for surgery, Winters police said.
According to emails from Early Police Chief David Mercer and Winters Police Chief Paula Geyer:
Winters Cpl. Laramie Stone made a traffic stop at 4:30 a.m. on State Highway 153. The driver, identified as Budnik, gave false identifying information, which was discovered when the driver’s license photo did not match the driver.
Stone called for backup, and once Geyer arrived, Stone ordered the driver out of the vehicle via his in-car public address system. Budnik drove away, and Stone and Geyer followed the car east on Highway 153 into Brown County. Coleman police and Coleman County deputies were also involved.
At 5:10 a.m., Early police, Brownwood police and Brown County deputies were notified of a high-speed pursuit entering Brown County. Deputies and Brownwood police assisted while Early police set up in the 100 block of Early Boulevard to throw spike strips in front of the fleeing vehicle.
The vehicle entered Early in excess of 100 mph and the driver swerved in an attempt to avoid the spikes. The driver lost control, and the vehicle struck the raised center concrete medians and began to leave the road in the 200 block of Early Boulevard, between Taco Casa and Discount Tire.
The vehicle began hitting street signs and landscaping before hitting a gas meter, causing a fireball explosion. The vehicle crossed in front of Heff’s Burgers, striking light poles and breaking concrete curbs.
The vehicle struck an Aaron’s rental truck, which crashed into a U-Haul truck. The car scraped the exterior of the Aaron’s store before stopping on the east side of the building.
The car was on fire when the three occupants were removed. The Early Fire Department extinguished the fires and assisted with injured occupants.
Several items of evidence were removed from the vehicle and from the individuals including a meth pipe and bath salts. Winters police took custody of evidence.
During the end of the pursuit a deputy’s vehicle struck a stop sign while turning into the location. The deputy was not injured and the vehicle sustained minor damage.
The crash scene is being investigated by the Early Police Department while the criminal case is being investigated by the Winters Police Department.