A Texas woman who was in custody on suspicion of shoplifting was able to escape from her handcuffs while in the backseat of a police SUV, climb into the front seat and lead officers on a lengthy chase, the Lufkin Police Department says.
Toscha Fay Sponsler, 33, was arrested at the Ulta beauty store in Lufkin on September 2, the police department said. While officers were investigating the shoplifting allegations, Sponsler stole a Lukfin patrol vehicle and fled the scene. Several departments joined the pursuit before she was taken into custody. The chase was caught on dashboard and body cameras.
She is now facing several felony charges related to the chase, along with a drug possession charge after she was found to be in possession of methamphetamine, the Lufkin Police Department said.
Here’s what you need to know:
1. Sponsler Is Seen on Video Removing Her Seatbelt, Slipping Out of Her Handcuffs & Climbing Into the Front Seat of the SUV Before Speeding Off
Video of the incident, which you can watch above, was released by the police department this week.
The video, which does not show the full pursuit, begins with Sponsler being taken into custody at the Ulta beauty store on Saturday, September 2, in Lufkin, according to the police department. Officers were called to the store for a report of a possible shoplifter. Sponsler was cuffed behind her back and put into the back of the patrol vehicle while “officers went through her bags of stolen goods,” Lufkin police said.
The video then shows Sponsler slipping out of her seat belt and mumbling to herself in the back of the police vehicle. She then slips out of her handcuffs and looks around before climbing into the front seat.
Body camera video from outside the vehicle recorded by officers who were going through the bag of items Sponsler allegedly stole shows Sponsler speeding off as the officers try to stop her. “God dang,” one officer says, as another tries to open the passenger door.
It is not clear how Sponsler was able to get out of the handcuffs.
2. She Led the Officers on a 23-Mile Chase at 100 MPH, Nearly Hitting Them Head-On While Reaching for a Shotgun Before a Trooper’s Pit Maneuver Ended the Pursuit, Police Say
After speeding out of the parking lot of the Ulta beauty store, Sponsler then led officers on a 23-minute, 100 mph chase,” the Lufkin Police Department said in a statement.
“Sponsler nearly went head on with two Lufkin officers and a Huntington constable during the pursuit. Throughout the chase, officers could see her reaching for the officer’s shotgun which was mechanically locked to the vehicle,” police said.
The chase ended in Zavalla, Texas, “after a DPS Trooper used a PIT maneuver to make her lose control of the vehicle.”
Sponsler declined medical attention at the scene and was taken into custody. There were no injuries to any officers or members of the public, police said.
3. The Police Department Launched an Internal Investigation of the Incident & Added ‘Tactical Window Limitation Devices’ to All Marked Vehicles
The video released by the department ends with a Lufkin officer installing a “A” in a patrol vehicle, and a note saying that the device has been put into all marked vehicles. “#FoolMeOnce” then appears on the screen.
The police department has launched an internal investigation into the incident.
“We are fortunate that no one was hurt during the incident,” Lufkin Police Assistant Chief David Thomas told KETK-TV. “Although we haven’t had anything like this happen in the past we will conduct an internal investigation to review the incident for training or tactical deficiencies.”
The police SUV was likely totaled, Thomas told the news station. The incident remains under investigation.
4. Sponsler Has Been Arrested Several Times Before, Including for Theft, Evading Arrest, Drugs &
Toscha Fay Sponsler has a lengthy criminal record with arrests in both Angelina and Williamson counties on charges ranging from theft and burglary to drug possession and evading arrest, online records show.
She has been arrested numerous times since 2005. According to her Facebook page, Sponsler lives in Lufkin and is originally from Liberty Hill, Texas, where she attended Liberty Hill High School.
“I don’t know what I’m doing anymore. I know that I want my concept of “A NORMAL” lifestyle, but can only catch glimpses of what I yearn for so much…. I honestly don’t really have a clue what life lesson, or purpose I’m currently serving but I can see that I have been on and havent totally hit a new bottom yet,” she wrote in the “About” section of her Facebook page. “For some odd reason this has been the longest rodeo I’ve not forfeited due to my pride. I keep hanging on and not totally giving up to let my self destructive self win and take completely over to, …like mortal combat… “FINISH HER”… ha. That’s a lil summary of the whole whirl-wind of a mess that I have become so far.. dueces, worm.”
Sponsler was arrested in 2005 and charged with transportation of chemicals with intent to manufacture a controlled substance and pleaded guilty to that charge.
In 2011, she was charged with theft of property greater than $50 and less than $500 and also convicted of that charge as well. In 2014, she was convicted of burglary of a habitation. Also in 2014, she was convicted of credit card or debit card abuse. In another 2014 case, she was charged with evading arrest, possession of a dangerous drug, burglary and unauthorized use of a vehicle.
Her most recent arrest was on July 10, 2017, when she was charged with criminal trespass.
5. She Remains In Custody at the Angelina County Jail on $18,000 Bail
Sponsler remains in custody at the Angelina County Jail on a combined $18,000 bail. She is facing several felony charges.
She was charged with two first-degree felonies: escape causing serious bodily injury/threat of a deadly weapon and aggravated assault against a public servant. Sponsler was also charged with three lower-level felonies, including evading arrest with a vehicle with a previous conviction and unauthorized use of a vehicle. A fifth felony charge for possession of a controlled substance was also added after police said they found her to be in possession of methamphetamine.
Sponsler has been in custody since her arrest on September 2. It is not clear when she is scheudled to appear in court. It is also not known if she has hired an attorney.