State police pursued a stolen car on Interstate 79 early Wednesday morning. The high-speed chase began near Waynesburg and ended when the car crashed in Washington County.
State police attempted to stop the vehicle at around 2 AM, according to state police Trooper Robert Broadwater. Officers on patrol in Franklin Township had run the vehicle's license plate and discovered that it had been reported stolen from West Virginia. When the car did not stop, it was pursued by troopers in the northbound lanes of I–79 for several miles.
According to police, the driver of the vehicle turned off the car's headlights and exited the interstate at Ruff Creek. He drove through a stop sign at the intersection with Route 221, and then got back on the interstate. The car continued to travel north on I–79 until it reached the Marianna interchange, located in Amwell Township, where it tried to exit. It careened over a hillside where the ramp curved, according to police. There were no other vehicles involved in the crash.
Trooper Broadwater indicated that the trooper who pursued the car did not contact it with his cruiser or perform any tactical maneuver to force the driver to lose control.
A 17-year-old boy and two adult males were injured. None of the injuries were life-threatening. The boy was taken to UPMC Children's Hospital of Pittsburgh, and the men were taken to UPMC Presbyterian Hospital in Pittsburgh.
Doryian Dewayne Williams, age 18, of White Haven, and William Lee Ross, age 20, of Latrobe, were both charged with fleeing police, receiving stolen property, criminal conspiracy, and several traffic violations. The teenage boy, who is from Fairmont, West Virginia, was not identified by state police.
Trooper Broadwater was not able to say who was driving the vehicle when it crashed. He said that Greene County juvenile probation was contacted after the crash.
Stealing a car is never a good idea, but fleeing the police is even worse, and these young men are starting their adult lives on a very bad note. The fact that it became a high-speed chase just compounds the issue. Engaging in a high-speed chase is a felony of the third degree, and comes with expensive fines, a driver’s license suspension, and time in prison. The traffic violations are the most minor of the charges the boys face, or at least, the driver will, once he is identified.
The gravity of the conspiracy charge is determined by the gravity of the other offenses, and since both the high-speed chase and the receiving stolen property are likely to be charged as felonies, the conspiracy charge will probably also be a felony. So, these boys are looking at some serious consequences.
That’s not to say that we should write the young men off. A well-trained defense attorney can examine their cases and present them with defense options that can make a difference in their outcome. For example, did one of the boys in the car steal it? Or did they borrow it with permission from the person who did? Did they even know it was stolen? Is there video footage from the officer’s car of the chase? If not, were the boys really speeding?
It will be important for these three young men to be completely honest with the attorneys they hire. The charges they face are too severe for them to be coy. If they expect to get their charges reduced or dismissed, the attorneys need to be fully informed of every minor detail. There’s nothing worse than getting to court and discovering that your client did or said something that he never told you about.
I hope they choose well. If they do, they’ll get excellent representation from hard-working, aggressive attorneys. If they don’t, I would not want to be in their shoes.
I also hope they learn a lesson from this misadventure.