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Chase brings crash, gunfire but no capture

July 30, 1999|By DAVE McMILLION, Charles Town

MARTINSBURG, W.Va. - Two police cars collided on Interstate 81 early Thursday during an attempt to pull over a motorist who fled from police in Washington County, according to the Berkeley County Sheriff's Department.

Police also fired a gun into the door of the car and struck it in the rear with a police cruiser in failed attempts to stop it, said Chief Deputy John Vanorsdale.

Deputy Willie Johnson was treated at Martinsburg City Hospital for a shoulder injury after a West Virginia State Police cruiser ran into the back of his car in the crash, said Vanorsdale.

Despite their efforts, police failed to stop the motorist.

The chase started about 1 a.m. when Washington County Sheriff's deputies tried to stop the blue Chevrolet Camaro on U.S. 11 in the Williamsport area for a traffic violation, said Vanorsdale.

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Johnson, who was stationed along I-81, noticed the car going north about 1:47 a.m. Just as the car was about to cross the Potomac River bridge into Washington County, it turned in the median and headed south on I-81, Vanorsdale said.

In the area of the Spring Mills exit, police believe the car avoided a pair of "stop sticks," devices placed in the road to deflate the tires of fleeing cars.

A short distance down the road, the driver of the car slammed on his brakes before hitting a second set of stop sticks, said Vanorsdale.

The sudden stop caused a State Police cruiser driven by Trooper J.M. Droppleman to hit Johnson's car, causing heavy damage to the sheriff's cruiser, said Vanorsdale.

Droppleman was not hospitalized.

The motorist escaped from police again and began driving north on I-81, Vanorsdale said. He left the interstate at the Spring Mills exit, drove to Bedington on U.S. 11 and then onto Scrabble Road, he said.

During a chase through the Whitings Neck area, Sgt. Dennis Streets of the sheriff's department nudged the rear of the suspect's vehicle, causing it to spin and run off the road, Vanorsdale said.

When Streets attempted to approach the car, the driver tried to run over Streets, Vanorsdale said.

Streets fired his gun several times, hitting the car once in the door, Vanorsdale said.

But the car continued toward Jefferson County on Scrabble Road, then Jacob Road. Officers from Berkeley and Jefferson counties were waiting at the Berkeley-Jefferson County line along W.Va. 45 in an attempt to catch the driver.

Police lost track of the car, then found it again about 3:35 a.m. parked against some trees on Scrabble Road, Vanorsdale said.

The driver fled and the chase began again.

Police lost sight of the car a second time but later found it unoccupied along Rocky Marsh Road off W.Va. 45 about 5:14 p.m.

Police dogs from Martinsburg Police attempted to track the driver in the Rocky Marsh Road area, but an early morning thunderstorm caused the animals to lose the scent they had picked up, said Vanorsdale.

Deputies had the sky blue Camaro towed into the sheriff's department for examination. The license plates on the car belonged to different automobile, Vanorsdale said.

The car is described as a mid-1980s Camaro with a front license plate that reads "Wolf Patrol."

Anyone with information about the car or the driver can call the sheriff's department at 1-304-267-7000.

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