A Gatesville man plunged 50 to 60 feet to his death from a bridge into Belton Lake after fleeing police across three Central Texas counties Wednesday, officials said.
Lt. Donnie Adams, a spokesman for the Bell County Sheriff’s Department, said authorities pulled the body of Joshua Joe Barnes, 38, from the lake just after noon Wednesday.
The incident began when Barnes fled from police officers who attempted to pull him over in McGregor just after 2 a.m.
Barnes was driving a silver 1995 Dodge pickup truck with dealer plates from Stanley Chrysler Dodge Jeep in Gatesville. Adams said the truck was not stolen from the dealership.
Barnes led police on a chase through McGregor and Gatesville before turning east toward Temple. He then stopped his vehicle on the Leon River Bridge, also known as Long Bridge, located near White Flint Park and jumped over the railing into the lake, Adams said.
It is a 50- to 60-foot drop from the bridge into the water, which is only about 6 or 7 feet deep.
Deputies arrived just as the truck hit the bridge’s guardrail and watched as the man jumped, said Detective Joe Coy with the McGregor Police Department.
One of the McGregor officers jumped into the water to try to locate and save him, but he had to get out because it was too cold, Coy said.
Authorities searched for more than 10 hours before recovering the body.
Barnes was booked into the Bell County Jail in November 2006 for criminal trespass, according to the sheriff’s department. His last arrest was in 2008 by the McGregor Police Department for aggravated robbery and evading arrest, Adams said. He was released from state prison July 10.
Authorities notified Barnes’ next of kin. According to his Facebook profile, Barnes was a tattoo artist at Superstitious Ink in Gatesville.
FME News Service contributed to this report.