Authorities searching for La. fugitives near Jackson, TN - WMC Action News 5 - Memphis, Tennessee

Authorities searching for La. fugitives near Jackson, TN

By Jason Miles - bio | email

and Anna Marie Hartman - bio | email

JACKSON, TN (WMC-TV) - Authorities in Jackson, Tennessee are searching for two fugitives from Louisiana who escaped while on work detail.

Authorities said a Tennessee Highway Patrol trooper who pulled over a stolen car on Interstate 40 near Jackson spotted 33-year-old Darian "Drake" Pierce and 36-year-old Ricky Wedgeworth on Tuesday evening.

According to a news release from the Tennessee Bureau of Investigation, the pair fled from the trooper on foot. They are considered dangerous.

Madison County Sheriff David Woolfork said Wedgeworth and Pierce were a potential threat to the community.

"We think they'll do anything to escape capture," said Woolfork.  "I would consider them extremely armed and dangerous."

They escaped on Friday afternoon from the Louisiana State Police Headquarters Compound, where they had been working, in a stolen state-issued van that was later found near St. Francisville in Louisiana.

The van had been rented by 53-year-old David Cupps, an Ohio man who traveled to Mississippi on business.  Cupps has not been seen since.

"He was carjacked in Vicksburg, Mississippi and that's the car we have," said TBI spokesman John Mehr.  "But we have not been able to locate him, neither has Mississippi."

At the time of the traffic stop Tuesday night, troopers had no reason to connect them with the stolen vehicle.  The pieces were put together only after they escaped on foot.

Multiple agencies set up a command post to and plan to keep it operational at least through Thursday morning.

Pierce is from Bogalusa, La., and is serving time for attempted second degree murder. Wedgeworth is from Memphis and is serving time for armed robbery.

While state and local police were scouring the Jackson area for Pierce and Wedgeworth, Memphis Police and the Shelby County Sheriff's Office issued a "be on the lookout" alert for the escaped convicts.

In 1997, Wedgeworth faced numerous charges after using his vehicle to drag a Shelby County Sheriff's deputy who tried to stop him.  At that time, Wedgeworth was living at a home on Bazemore Street in East Memphis.

Neighbors said Wedgeworth's family moved out several years ago.

"I don't remember a guy, but I do remember there was always like chaos ... going on over there," said neighbor Debbie Jackson.  "So maybe they had a son, that's possible."

When Wedgeworth escaped from Louisiana, he was in jail for a 2006 armed robbery.

Neighborhoods in Jackson were on alert all day.

"I think I'm keeping my doors locked and gun ready," said Jackson resident Eli Henley.

Officers stopped traffic to share information about the fugitives.  Big rigs were also searched at a nearby truck stop and drivers were urged to beware of picking up hitchhikers.

Photos of Wedgeworth and Pierce were plastered on electronic billboards in Jackson Wednesday night.  Anyone who sees the escapees was asked to call police.

Copyright 2011 WMC-TV. All rights reserved.  The AP contributed to this report.

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