By DON FLETCHER
News Staff Writer
A Century, Fla. man was arrested in Escambia County, Ala., for the fifth time in less than three years after Atmore police caught him red-handed as he loaded surplus iron from a railroad maintenance project into his truck.
Police reports show the incident happened around 7:35 p.m. on April 26. An APD investigator and a patrol officer were sent to the area of Highway 31 and Tumbling Lane, near Canoe, after dispatchers received a report that someone — apparently not a CSX employee — was filling the bed of a pickup truck with iron.
CSX has been conducting maintenance on various rail crossings in the area for a couple of weeks, and scrap metal is being left along the railway in several places until it can be recovered by salvage crews.
According to reports, the investigator and officer arrived and saw a white male, later identified as 54-year-old Michael Travis Bell, loading the iron in the truck bed.
The investigator and patrolman got out of their vehicles and tried to talk to Bell, but the suspect jumped back into his truck and sped away as they approached. They pursued Bell until he lost control of the pickup on Stanley Road and drove through a fence.
Reports show that he abandoned the vehicle and fled into a wooded area where he was apprehended after a short foot pursuit.
The suspect had been jailed four previous times since 2019, mostly on drug possession and domestic violence charges, according to the Escambia County Detention Center website.
Bell complained of chest pains during his arrest and was taken to Atmore Community Hospital, where he was admitted for a short period of observation, then discharged.
He was then taken to the county jail and processed into the facility on a Class C felony charge of first-degree criminal mischief (for causing between $500 and $2,500 worth of damage to the truck, which he had borrowed from a friend). He was also charged with a pair of Class A misdemeanors, second-degree criminal mischief (for less than $500 damage to the fence) and fourth-degree theft of property (for the metal).
Bell is also charged with one count of attempting to elude police, and the arrest represented a violation of probation. Bell remained behind bars, without bond, late Monday, May 2.