Hampton Police end manhunt for armed suspect

Benjamin Powell, photo courtesy Newport News Police.

*Editor’s Note: Powell has been found. Search his name on WAVY.com for more recent stories.

HAMPTON, Va. (WAVY) — Benjamin Tyler Powell was the subject of a 10-hour manhunt in a residential area of Hampton Thursday morning, and police say he is armed, dangerous and still on the loose.

Hampton Police are remaining visible in the Hampton Woods neighborhood, where they, along with Virginia State Police searched for Powell through the night, until about 9 a.m. Investigators don’t think he’s there anymore, but they want residents to feel safe.

“We are receiving some Crime Line tips that indicate he may not be in the area anymore,” said Sgt. Jason Price with Hampton Police. “We’re following up on those tips right now.”

Powell’s last known address was his parents house in the North Hampton area. Neighbors say they haven’t seen the 24-year-old, better known as Tyler, in a year — that is, until they turned on the news Thursday morning.

“I just said, ‘that’s the guy that used to live down the street.’ I couldn’t believe it,” James Graves said.

Neighbors were even more alarmed to hear what Powell is wanted for.

Around 10 p.m. Wednesday, Virginia State Police say a trooper tried to pull over a 2008 Chevy sedan for reckless driving on Interstate 64, but the vehicle didn’t stop until the 1100 block of Big Bethel Road, near the intersection with Village Drive. That’s when the driver jumped out and ran.

Sgt. Michelle Anaya with the VSP said the driver left two passengers behind, one of whom owned the vehicle. She told troopers she didn’t know the driver and had met him at a party. She had been drinking and said the suspect had not and offered to drive her vehicle.

About 30 minutes later, Hampton police say they found the suspect behind the Hampton Woods Plaza shopping center.

“That individual brandished a firearm at one of the officers. The second officer, who observed this action, discharged his firearm towards the direction of the suspect,” Price said.

It’s unknown if the suspect was hit, but he then ran again, police say east, in the direction of Magruder Boulevard.

“Right now we are very concerned for the safety of our citizens,” Price said early Thursday morning. “This is an armed individual who has pointed a firearm at an officer and was last seen running in the direction of a neighborhood.”

“We are doing everything we can to ensure the public’s safety, however, we are urging them to stay inside, and that if they are coming home from work or going to work, that they make other arrangements and really avoid the area at this time,” Price added.

Around 4:20 a.m., investigators determined the suspect was Powell.

Powell has previous warrants on file for felony probation violation and failure to appear, and due to this incident now has warrants for attempted maiming, brandishing a firearm and possession of a firearm by a convicted felon.

Photos: Manhunt in Hampton

Police searched the Hampton Woods area all morning. Village Drive was closed for some time, and checkpoints were established on roads leaving the scene. Drivers leaving the area were spoken to by officers and their vehicles searched by police.

Nearby schools were put on a two-hour delay, but around 8:45 a.m., police told WAVY News’ Lex Gray there would be no further delay and students could go to their bus stops. Around 9 a.m., police announced they were reopening roads after being unable to find Powell.

WAVY.com went to Powell’s last known address, which is about 1.5 miles away from Village Drive. No one answered at the door, although there were several vehicles in the driveway.

Neighbors told WAVY.com their kids grew up with Powell and went to school with him. Others said they used to see him walking down the street and he always said hello. Graves said he was wondering why police were hanging out in his neighborhood overnight. When he turned on the television and saw Powell’s distinctive tattoo, that’s when he realized what was going on.

“They were stopping cars, and if you had a truck, they made the driver get out. Or if it was a car, he would get out and they’d open the trunk to see if anyone was in there and the let you go,” Graves said.

The manhunt caused a huge disruption for people in the area trying to get ready for work or school Thursday morning.

Finals had to wait Thursday morning for Thomas Nelson Community College student Paul Hem. Not only did he have to deal with police blocking most access points to his neighborhood,  his car wouldn’t start as well.

“I’m just trying to get to school to take my exams,” Hem said. “All the roads are blocked. My dad couldn’t come home. This is my only chance, and I’m trying to get a jump from my neighbors. That’s the only thing I can do.”

While most in the area admitted the incident was inconvenient, many said they believed police were only doing what was needed for public safety. But Wanda Atkins said she didn’t have her TV on when police alerted the media about the manhunt and didn’t know she was unsafe for hours.

“They could have rung our phones, the cellphones or the house phone to let us know to stay in the house, somebody’s around our yard, because when I woke up, it scared the daylights out of me,” she said.

Officers are still pursuing Powell’s arrest.

Powell is described as a white man wearing a dark blue hooded sweatshirt with light blue pants and a baseball cap. Anyone with information on his whereabouts should call the Crime Line at 1-888-LOCK-U-UP.


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