Bridger jumper search

A member of the Morgan’s Point Resort dive team begins searching for Joshua Joe Barnes, 38, of Gatesville after Barnes jumped into Lake Belton on Wednesday following a police chase.

A police chase that started in McGregor ended in death when the man being chased slammed his truck into the long bridge on Texas 36 and then jumped into the cold, murky waters of Lake Belton at about 2:28 a.m. Wednesday.

Following a search of several hours, the body of Joshua Joe Barnes, 38, of Gatesville was found at 12:05 p.m. by the Morgan’s Point Resort dive team.

The incident began when a McGregor police officer tried to make a traffic stop at about 2 a.m., but the driver of the silver 1995 Dodge pickup refused to stop, said Lt. Donnie Adams, Bell County Sheriff’s Department spokesman. The driver tried to hide his face from the officer, Adams said.

The McGregor officer called ahead and a second officer joined the chase, which went through McGregor and Gatesville before ending in Bell County, said Detective Joe Coy with McGregor Police Department.

Two deputies from the Bell County Sheriff’s Department arrived after the Coryell County Sheriff’s Office notified the Bell County communications center that McGregor police were in pursuit of a vehicle, Adams said.

Deputies arrived just as the truck hit the bridge’s guardrail and watched as the man jumped about 60 feet off the bridge into water about 6 to 7 feet deep, Coy said.

One of the McGregor officers jumped into the water to try to locate him and attempt lifesaving efforts, but he had to get out because it was too cold, Coy said.

Deputies, Texas Rangers, U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, Texas Parks & Wildlife Department game wardens and Moffat Volunteer Fire Department searched the lake area to see if the man had survived and reached shore, but found nothing.

Texas Parks & Wildlife Department had a boat on the water by dawn and obtained two good sonar readings approximately where the the man hit the water, said Hal Pagel, fire chief with Moffat Volunteer Fire Department.

The park rangers placed markers where they received the readings so the divers would have a reference point.

Visibility in the water was probably “zilch or less,” Pagel said as divers did a sweep of the area.

Divers had no luck in the area pinpointed by sonar, so the search area was widened to include an area closer to shore and the bridge pillars.

The rangers placed another marker following a sweep closer to the shallows, and it was in that vicinity the divers found the body. It was placed in a blue body bag and taken to shore by the two divers.

A search of Department of Public Safety criminal records showed Barnes had been discharged from the Texas Department of Criminal Justice in Huntsville on July 10 after serving five years for aggravated robbery following an arrest by the McGregor Police Department.

Before that, Barnes had been arrested by the Gatesville Police Department and convicted for theft of property over $1,500 but more than $20,000. He was sentenced to 18 months in prison.

A 2007 arrest by Bellmead Police Department resulted in an 18-month sentence for a conviction of possession of a controlled substance less than one gram.

He was first arrested on June 1, 1993, by the Houston Police Department and convicted of aggravated assault causing severe bodily injury. Barnes was sentenced to 180 days.

Barnes also had other arrests and convictions for misdemeanor offenses, including one for which he was in Bell County Jail in 2006, Adams said.

An investigation is under way in connection with this incident, Adams said.

Justice of the Peace Ted Duffield pronounced Barnes dead at the location and ordered his body sent for an autopsy at Southwest Institute of Forensic Science in Dallas.