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Driver leads police on pursuit, causes crash & escapes

by GEOFF FOX

A Berkeley Springs man led Hancock police on a pursuit from I-70 across the Hancock bridge on Friday evening, April 13, and evaded police on the West Virginia side of the river. Police continue to look for the suspect.

According to Hancock police, officers were alerted by Maryland State Police to be on the lookout for a black Mustang with a red stripe heading westbound on Interstate 70 at the 12-mile marker around 5:25 p.m.

The vehicle was reported to be driving at high speeds, weaving between vehicles, and passing vehicles on the shoulder of the road, police records show.

Hancock Police Chief Richard Miller was positioned along I-70 at the 2-mile marker conducting laser speed enforcement while standing outside his unmarked police vehicle.

Around 5:34 p.m., Miller said he observed a black vehicle traveling westbound on the interstate at 83 miles per hour.

The vehicle continued to approach his location and then began to slow to exit off the interstate and onto the U.S. 522 exit.

As the vehicle passed Miller, he was able to see the car was being driven by a white male with a white female in the passenger seat.

Miller said the vehicle had Maryland tags, but matched a vehicle from an April 9 traffic stop in Hancock in which Hancock Police stopped a Mustang for spinning its tires in Hancock. That vehicle was displaying West Virginia tags.

Miller left the interstate location and followed the Mustang onto U.S. 522.

According to police, the Mustang accelerated rapidly as it traveled south towards West Virginia. When Miller activated his emergency lights and siren, the vehicle continued to increase its speeds. The driver switched into the northbound lane and began to pass vehicles on the bridge, nearly striking a northbound vehicle head-on.

As the vehicle entered West Virginia, Miller said he saw smoke coming from the tires of the Mustang and then saw it strike the rear of a vehicle at the intersection of U.S. 522 and River Road.

Miller said a small black dog appeared to be thrown from the Mustang at the time of the accident.

The driver of the Mustang disengaged the car from the wreckage, even though it appeared to have disabling front-end damage, and drove away from the scene.

Miller said he was able to identify the driver and determined that the Mustang wasn’t able to drive at reckless speeds, so he turned his attention to the passengers of the vehicle that had been struck. The two passengers, elderly local residents, were not injured, said police.

Cpl. S. Smith of the West Virginia State Police responded to the collision at the end of the bridge. Members of the Morgan County Sheriff’s Department were called to assist in locating the Mustang. Sheriff’ K.C. Bohrer said officers lost sight of the vehicle several miles down River Road.

Officers had multiple reports from the area that drivers had seen the fleeing vehicle, which had heavy front-end damage and no hood.

Cpl. Smith located several pieces of the vehicle along roadways, including a front bumper and hood. The tag on the front bumper was a Maryland tag that belonged to a Kia.

On Saturday, April 14, the Morgan County Sheriff’s Department located the Mustang in a field along Camp Harmison Road east of Berkeley Springs.

A check of the vehicle’s identification number revealed the owner of the vehicle was from Martinsburg and should have been displaying a West Virginia tag.

Police said multiple charges are pending against the driver, who was known to them but not in custody at press time, in both Maryland and West Virginia.

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