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State Line man, 72, charged following chase on I-81

November 10, 2009

MARTINSBURG, W.Va. -- A 72-year-old Pennsylvania man faces two counts of attempted murder after police say he drove 10 mph on southbound Interstate 81 and later accelerated to about 100 mph after attempting to ram police cruisers.

Thomas Reginald Fleming, of State Line, Pa., also faces charges of reckless driving, destruction of property, fleeing and attempted malicious assault, according to Berkeley County Magistrate Court records.

According to the Berkeley County Sheriff's Department, the incident started about 2:15 p.m. Tuesday when dispatchers received several calls for a vehicle that stopped in traffic on I-81, according to police and emergency dispatch officials.

Deputy Bruce White said he arrived at the 16-mile marker near the Hedgesville, W.Va., and Berkeley Springs, W.Va., exit when he observed a vehicle traveling about 10 mph in the center lane, the release said.

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White said he turned on his emergency lights and siren, but the driver, later identified as Fleming, continued driving without acknowledging White's presence.

At one point, the driver appeared to be passed out, and at another time his head was erect and he was looking straight ahead, the release said.

Police determined that Fleming was not under the influence of any drugs or alcohol, Sheriff Kenneth M. Lemaster Jr. said Tuesday night.

The driver accelerated to about 40 mph and deputies Daniel Clarke and Justin Jenkins went to the 12-mile marker near the Apple Harvest Drive exit in an attempt to stop the driver, the release said.

The driver stopped but then accelerated and almost struck Clarke, the release said. Jenkins jumped out of the way when the vehicle went toward him, police said.

The three deputies followed the vehicle to about the 8-mile marker, where it went into the median and started going north on the interstate, reaching speeds of about 100 mph, police said.

Other deputies and state police troopers responded, and the vehicle stopped after running over spike strips. The driver was arrested.

Lemaster said about a dozen deputies, including three or four to assist with traffic control, responded to the incident. About six West Virginia State Police troopers also assisted, he said.

The incident prompted authorities to shut down two lanes of the highway for about 30 minutes, Lemaster said.

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