Off-duty trooper hears scream, tracks down armed man in Cookeville

(Photo: WKRN)

COOKEVILLE, Tenn. (WKRN) – An off-duty state trooper tracked down an armed suspect accused of assaulting a young woman on a busy walking path through Cookeville.

Lance Estep, 34, faces charges of aggravated assault and aggravated sexual battery. Trooper Jeff Brown credits the young woman for fighting off the attack in the first place.

Brown was out with family walking along the Central Tennessee Heritage Rail Trail when around the curve came a scream and a woman on the run.

(Photo: WKRN)

“She’s got a panicked look on her face. My wife asks her if she’s ok, and that’s when she says, ‘He has a knife and he grabbed me,!” the trooper explained. “Got off my bike, grabbed my pistol and my identification out of my pack, and took off in the direction that he was.”

Like that, the chase was on. Trooper Brown dipped off the pavement, cutting through a path in the trees until he spotted the suspect with his back turned on the other side of the tree line.

“I wanted the advantage, so I came this way to take him by surprise,” he explained. “He turned around started screaming, squalling, begging me not to kill him. I pull out my identification and identify myself. Tell him I’m not gonna shoot him, I’m not gonna kill him, but he’s not gonna move from where he’s at.”

(Photo: WKRN)

Cookeville police were soon on scene, and Estep was in cuffs. A press release on Facebook later explained the woman was grabbed after she and Estep crossed paths.

Estep was reportedly armed with a knife, but the victim was undeterred.

“She did everything that I hope I can instill in my daughter that she should do when she’s old enough. She fought it off the best that she could, she got distance from him, and then she sought out help,” said Brown. “She prevented the assault. She’s the hero absolutely.”

Trooper Brown says he was just happy to play a part, answering orders he felt came from a higher up.

“I’m thankful I was here, and I believe wholeheartedly it was a god thing,” he told News 2.

Police say the victim suffered a knife wound to one of her hands but was treated on scene. Estep remains in the Putnam County Jail, with a $50,000 bond.