MNPD helicopter pilots help track down alleged car thief driving 100+ mph

NASHVILLE, Tenn. (WKRN) — With the help of eagle-eyed helicopter pilots, the Metro Nashville Police Department (MNPD) arrested a man who reportedly stole a muscle car and drove at dangerously high speeds through Music City earlier this week.

The case came to a peaceful resolution the day after the car was reported stolen, thanks in large part to MNPD’s helicopter, which followed the suspect vehicle and relayed its position. The officers on the ground waited for the alleged car thief to stop before they took him into custody.

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News 2 obtained MNPD’s footage from the chopper as it followed the speeding suspect along Nashville roadways on Wednesday, Nov. 1. The police helicopter flew covertly over the top of the stolen 2018 Dodge Charger R/T Scat Pack.

The driver — identified in an arrest affidavit as Melvin Buford — was clocked repeatedly driving over 100 mph. According to investigators, the Nashville man also drove on the wrong side of the road, putting other drivers at risk.

After several miles, Buford was tracked to a Goodlettsville apartment complex. When he stopped, MNPD’s ground units converged, sparking a brief foot chase before Buford was caught.

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Nashville’s police choppers have been instrumental in several high-profile arrests recently, including the apprehension of a double carjacking suspect, Elijah McDowell, who crashed a stolen Dodge Charger on Interstate 440, rolling the vehicle into the grass on the side of the road, authorities said.

The chopper’s camera tracked McDowell as he got out of the wrecked car, ran through the median, jumped a fence, and fled into another neighborhood, coming across a 70-year-old man who was picking up his granddaughters.

In an interview with News 2 last week, the grandfather said McDowell fought him, pulled him out of his Toyota Tundra at gunpoint, and stole the truck. Fortunately, the two girls were able to get out of the vehicle safely.

Thanks to the MNPD chopper flying overhead and relaying the suspect’s every move to ground units, McDowell was quickly arrested.

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“The big advantage there is obviously we can slow things down,” said Sgt. Henry Particelli with MNPD’s Aviation Division. “The chopper keeps officers and citizens safe. We don’t have to chase cars with blue lights and sirens anymore, which is a great risk to public safety.”

According to arrest paperwork, the chopper first detected Buford on Haynes Park Drive, near Triana Stratton’s home, in North Nashville.

The woman didn’t know Buford, nor did she know that he was driving around in a stolen car outside her home. However, she told News 2 she is glad Nashville authorities has eyes in the sky.

“I mean, I feel like it’s safe for our neighborhood,” Stratton said. “It lets me know now they’re in our neighborhoods and they’re doing their jobs.”

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Buford was reportedly charged with evading, reckless endangerment, and theft over $10,000. He is currently out on $50,000 bond.

As for McDowell, Metro Jail records show that he is still locked up on numerous felony charges.

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