Brownwood Police were dispatched to the Vine Street underpass at approximately 4PM on Tuesday, September 30th, to respond to a shopping cart vs wheelchair collision. Officers found 64-year old Walter Dennis laying at the far end of the pedestrian tunnel. After further investigation, it was determined that Dennis was operating his wheelchair going downhill heading towards Avenue A when he was knocked out of his chair by Lionel Malvern, 24. Malvern, who was under investigation for stealing shopping carts from Brookshires, was running at a high speed towards Carnegie Street in an attempt to escape Brookshires loss prevention officers. The sidewalk was not wide enough for both actors, and they collided, knocking Dennis out of his wheelchair and wedging it between the bars facing the roadway. Malvern had several active warrants for habitual jaywalking and is being held in the Brown County Jail in lieu of $7.58 in bonds.
Pedestrians were backed up for hours as no foot traffic was allowed through the underpass until the accident could be cleared. Most pedestrians were seeking to go to the Public Library to use the internet and “beef with complete strangers on the Vent Page” according to officer reports. Rescue workers were forced to use the light of thier cell phones as none of the vintage incandescent lighting in the tunnel was functioning and it was cloudy outdoors. One man had a panic attack when confined in the dark, damp passageway. Due to the large backup of pedestrians, he was unable to be transported to the Brownwood Regional Medical Center. Against medical advice, he decided to seek recovery at Depot Liquor.
Brown County Emergency Management reminds all residents that, when trapped in the Vine Street underpass, stay calm and look out for oncoming traffic. While it is impossible to yield to traffic, one can at least brace for impact. Hardhats with flashlights strapped to the crown are also recommended for all pedestrians. An informational brochure will be available for free distribution at the Brownwood Chamber of Commerce.
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