By Nicholas Grube

Triplicate staff writer

Law enforcement arrested the ex-convict they thought led them on a car chase through Stout Grove last week, but later released him due to the lack of witnesses.

Paul R. Poplin, 42, was arrested at gunpoint in the Wal-Mart parking lot Saturday by deputies from the Del Norte County Sheriff's Office. He was wanted on charges of evading a peace officer from an early morning car chase a few days before.

andquot;Witnesses were saying that Poplin was driving the car,andquot; Sheriff's Commander Tim Athey said. But later, he said, the witnesses started to recant their statements.

andquot;The witnesses have backed up saying, 'no, nope, we don't want to get involved in this,'andquot; Athey said.

Because of the lack of witnesses, Poplin - who has served time in Pelican Bay, San Quentin and Folsom State Prisons - was released from custody the morning after his arrest.

andquot;The original charge that he was arrested for - evading a peace officer, has been dropped,andquot; Athey said. But, he added, andquot;The investigation is still continuing with other potential witnesses.andquot;

Original reports from the sheriff's office said that Poplin was involved in a car chase that occurred in the early morning hours on April 25 when they received reports that he had a firearm in the vehicle with him.

When law enforcement attempted to pull the vehicle over, then thought to be driven by Poplin, the SUV sped off, driving up Elk Valley and Howland Hill Roads and through Stout Grove.

California Highway Patrol set up a spike strip near covered bridge and blew out the tires on the Dodge Durango. But when law enforcement started to direct people out of the vehicle, those individuals bolted through the woods and the brush.

California Highway Patrol only found an air gun resembling a real firearm in the Durango.

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