We don’t know if a Martinsville Police officer knew who he was attempting to stop on Memorial Boulevard at Askin Street on New Year’s Day, but we do know that Thomas Joe Braxton III, 37, of Martinsville was all too familiar with the process of being pulled over by law enforcement.
He’s also familiar with courts and jails and prison sentences, based on a criminal record built in much of this century.
According to court records in the city of Martinsville and the counties of Henry, Franklin and Roanoke, Braxton began accumulating a long string of traffic violations beginning in 2007, when he was stopped in Henry County for transporting a juvenile in the bed of a truck and driving without a license in Henry County. In 2013 he was stopped in Martinsville for not having a child properly restrained in the vehicle.
He was convicted for speeding five times from 2010 to 2018 in the city of Martinsville and the counties of Henry and Roanoke.
Braxton was stopped on eight different occasions from August 2007 through July 2018 in Martinsville, Henry and Franklin counties and charged with various combinations of driving on a revoked or suspended license, not having a driver’s license and operating an unlicensed vehicle.
In June, 2018 Braxton was sentenced in Henry County General District Court to 10 days in jail for repeatedly driving without a driver’s license in Henry County.
In all of the times Braxton saw the blue lights in his rear-view mirror and heard the sound of a police siren, he never was charged with trying to dodge the cops.
That changed on New Year’s Day at approximately 9:38 p.m., when Braxton hit the gas in his 2002 Toyota pickup and tried to get away from a city police officer. Three miles down the road, on Theatre Street in Henry County, Braxton jumped out of his moving vehicle and fled on foot.
Officers caught up with Braxton behind Glen Ridge Apartments when, according to Virginia State Police and Martinsville City police, Braxton shot Martinsville Police Officer Michael Panos in the arm, and Panos and Martinsville Police Officer Jason Griffith fired back.
Panos and Braxton were treated and released for non-life-threatening injuries. Panos is recovering at home, while Braxton is in the Henry County jail under no bond on charges of attempted capital murder, use of a firearm in the commission of a felony, possession of a firearm by a convicted felon and felony elude.
But Braxton’s prior convictions are not relegated solely to traffic violations.
In January 2002, Braxton was sentenced to 10 years in the penitentiary, with 9 years suspended, for an attempted armed robbery in March 2001 in Henry County. He was sentenced to an additional 3 years for using a firearm in the commission of a felony in the same case tried in Henry County Circuit Court.
In December 2005, Braxton was back in Henry County Circuit Court, where he was convicted of violating probation and his previous sentence and probation were revoked. In June 2006 he was sentenced to 9 years, with all but five days of it suspended.
In July, 2018 Braxton was sentenced in Martinsville General District court to 6 months in jail for petit larceny of less than $500.
Braxton’s last scrape with police before New Year’s Day was on July 7, 2018, when he was charged in Martinsville with driving under a revoked or suspended license and operating an uninsured vehicle. He pleaded guilty in Martinsville General District Court on Nov. 9, 2018, and was fined $300 and court costs.
A Virginia State Police release states Martinsville police were attempting to stop for a traffic violation on Jan. 1.
Martinsville Deputy Police Chief Robert Fincher told the Martinsville Bulletin on Monday that the department would not say what traffic violation was observed, or which officer observed it.
“We will not be releasing anything else on the matter until the Virginia State Police finishes their investigation,” he said.