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Martinsburg man charged following high-speed chase

July 14, 2010|By MATTHEW UMSTEAD

MARTINSBURG, W.Va. --A Martinsburg man accused of driving 96 mph on Interstate 81 Wednesday morning attempted to flee from an officer who pursued him for at least two miles before he was stopped and arrested, according to police and court records.

Justin M. Catlett, 30, of 700 W. Burke St., was in Eastern Regional Jail on a $20,100 bond Wednesday night after being arraigned by Berkeley County Magistrate Sandra L. Miller on charges of fleeing in a motor vehicle, reckless driving, improper registration, obstruction and no insurance, according to court and jail records.

The pursuit began about 10:34 a.m. near the 17-mile marker on I-81 after State Police Trooper J.J. Bowman attempted to stop a Honda Accord that allegedly was traveling north on I-81 and exceeding the 70-mph limit, according to a news release from West Virginia State Police Sgt. T.C. Kearns.

The vehicle failed to yield and fled north, then got off the interstate at exit 20, according to the news release.

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From there, the pursuit continued east on W.Va. 901 to U.S. 11, where Kearns joined Bowman in the effort to stop the vehicle, Kearns said in the release.

The car turned onto Brown Road, where it was blocked in by officers and stopped, the release said.

The driver was taken into custody, according to the release.

The pursuit lasted for about three minutes and police said the defendant threw an item from his vehicle amid the pursuit as he left the interstate, according to the news release.

Kearns said troopers attempted to locate the discarded item, but it was not clear Wednesday afternoon if it was found.

Catlett, who was cited twice previously for no insurance, told police that he recently lost his job, didn't want to pay any more fines and fled because he was scared, according to court records.

The pursuit was at least the third incident since Friday in the Eastern Panhandle that involved a motorist attempting to flee from state police troopers, according to court records.

Early Tuesday morning, an Anne Arundel County, Md., man crashed the vehicle he was driving at the intersection of Winchester Avenue and Wilson Street in Martinsburg while attempting to avoid police, Kearns announced.

Christopher E. Chamberlain, 33, of 1271 Cove Drive in Churchton, Md., was charged with failure to yield to an emergency vehicle, possession of heroin and false information, according to a news release by Kearns.

At 3:03 a.m., State Police Troopers N.K. Campbell and C.S. Maynard stopped a white Honda Accord for failure to yield on Winchester Avenue (U.S. 11) near the Economy Inn, just outside the City of Martinsburg, according to the news release.

The driver pulled away in the vehicle as Campbell went to speak to Chamberlain a second time, according to the news release. Police moments later discovered that the vehicle matched the description of one that had struck a utility pole at the intersection with Wilson Street and fled the scene, according to the news release.

On Friday night, police charged a man with fleeing while driving under the influence after he led police on a pursuit that began on Shenandoah Junction Road in Jefferson County and ended near Stonebridge Golf Club in Berkeley County, according to court records.

When asked about the string of pursuits, Kearns said it was likely due to an increase in road patrols by local troopers.

"We are currently conducting overtime patrols for the coming weeks in certain areas, targeting aggressive driving with an emphasis on criminal interdiction," Kearns said.

As a result, there has been a "sharp increase" in the number of traffic stops in a given week, which Kearns said directly corresponds to the increase in fleeing incidents.

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