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One local man jailed 2nd sought after theft, chase, gunfire, manhunt and snakebite

Justin Cole Vasta, 37, is held in lieu of bonds totaling nearly $1.2 million charged with aggravated assault on a peace officer with a deadly weapon and evading arrest. (Jail photo)
Justin Cole Vasta, 37, is held in lieu of bonds totaling nearly $1.2 million charged with aggravated assault on a peace officer with a deadly weapon and evading arrest. (Jail photo)(KWTX)
Published: Jul. 28, 2020 at 11:31 AM CDT|Updated: Jul. 29, 2020 at 12:06 PM CDT
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CORYELL COUNTY, Texas (KWTX) – One Central Texas man is jailed after receiving treatment for a snakebite and authorities are seeking a second following a theft in Coryell County that led to a chase during which a state trooper was run off the road and shots were fired.

Warrants have been issued for Jove Bryce Gomez, who remained at large Tuesday.

“Jove Bryce Gomez should be considered armed and dangerous and it is recommended that you do not approach if located or observed and immediately call 911,” Chief Coryell County Deputy Rob Atkins said in a press release.

Justin Cole Vasta, 37, is held in lieu of bonds totaling nearly $1.2 million charged with aggravated assault on a peace officer with a deadly weapon and evading arrest.

He was arrested without incident last Friday after Coryell County Sheriff Scott Williams responded to a report of a man matching Vasta’s description in the 7500 block of County Road 215.

After the arrest Vasta told the officers a snake had bitten him while he was in a wooded area attempting to elude authorities.

He was checked out at Coryell Memorial Hospital and then was transferred to the Coryell County Jail.

The charges stem from the theft of a vehicle and a trailer loaded with lawn equipment that was reported at around 1 p.m. on July 22.

Gatesville officers determined that two men in a small black passenger car pulled into the parking lot in the 1000 block of State Highway 36 in Gatesville.

One of the men got out and got into the vehicle connected to the trailer containing the mowing equipment and then both men drove off.

Coryell County deputies later found the stolen vehicle, trailer and lawn equipment abandoned on County Road 215 near County Road 239.

At around the same time, other deputies spotted the suspect’s car in the area of County Road 245 and attempted to pull it over.

The driver sped off, turned back onto County Road 215 and headed east.

Other deputies joined the search along with Department of Public Safety troopers, one of whom spotted the car traveling at a high rate of speed on CR 215 with deputies in pursuit.

As the trooper slowed down, Atkins said, “the suspect vehicle then crossed the center line, into the oncoming trooper’s lane of travel, leaving the trooper with no alternative but to evade a head on collision and exit the roadway, into the ditch.”

The suspects continued to head east at a high rate of speed, Atkins said, “swerving in and out of both lanes, slowing abruptly and then speeding up while deputies remained behind them with activated emergency lights and sirens.”

“It was at or about this time that the driver extended his arm through an open, driver’s side window, holding a handgun and began firing at the pursuing deputies,” who slowed down to distance themselves from the gunfire, Atkins said.

The deputies lost sight of the car and Bosque County deputies who were positioned to intercept the suspects on CR 215 at the Bosque-Coryell county line told the pursuers the suspects hadn’t approached them.

Deputies backtracked and headed north on CR 223 where they found vehicle tracks that led off the road and through a damaged gate onto a private driveway.

Coryell and Bosque county deputies established a perimeter and Bosque County deputies deployed a drone with which they located the suspect’s car parked near a home.

A search of an adjacent 400-acre tract of land by deputies, state troopers, Texas Department of Criminal Justice dog teams and a DPS helicopter came up empty.

Authorities did determine the car had been stolen from Seguin and were able to identify the two suspects, who were the focus of U.S. Marshals Service Fugitive Task Force investigations and who were named in outstanding auto theft warrants out of Bell County.

“Multiple firearms were located inside the suspect vehicle that are believed to be stolen along with spent, shell casings lying in the front, floorboard area,” Atkins said.

Authorities are asking anyone with information about either suspect to call the Coryell County Sheriff’s Office at (254) 865-7201 ext. 0.

Copyright 2020 KWTX. All rights reserved.

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