FAIRMONT — A Mannington man is accused of leading police on a high-speed pursuit Nov. 10 that resulted in “catastrophic” damage to the officer’s vehicle.
Mannington Police charged 23-year-old Austin Gump of 817 Laurel Dr., Mannington, with felony fleeing from and officer. He is being held in the North Central Regional Jail in lieu of $40,012 bail.
According to the court papers, a Mannington Police patrolman was parked at the entrance to Huey Park on Laurel Drive around 4:40 a.m. Nov. 10 when he saw a bright light and what appeared to be two very dim lights and approached him from Flaggy Meadow Road.
The officer said that as the lights approached, the vehicle began to slow down and crossed the center line into the oncoming lane in front of 817 Laurel Dr.
Police said the vehicle made a right turn in an attempt to make a u-turn. The officer pulled his cruiser onto the road and began approaching the vehicle. The complaint states the officer stopped his cruiser approximately 50 feet from the suspect vehicle, which was now turned crossway in the traffic lanes, the complaint states.
The officer said the vehicle, an older model Jeep Cherokee style vehicle, continued to make the u-turn and back up to let him continue out Flaggy Meadow Road. The officer kept his vehicle stopped in the road as the driver of the Jeep flashed his driving light on and off several times, the complaint states. After the officer activated his emergency lights, the Jeep paused for a few seconds, pulled out and began to slowly drive toward the officer and turned all the lights off, according to the complaint. The officer said he identified the driver as Austin Gump as the Jeep moved past his vehicle. The officer said Gump and a passenger put their heads down in an attempt to prevent being identified.
Then, the officer turned his cruiser around and began to pursue Gump, the complaint states.
“Once turned around, I observed that he was not going to stop and I activated my emergency lights and siren,” the officer wrote in the complaint.
The officer said Gump turned left onto Meadow Avenue and began traveling at a high rate of speed.
The officer said he looked at his speedometer near the area of the fire department and saw they were traveling “well above the posted 25 mph speed limit.
On Sycamore Street, the officer saw Gump’s vehicle moving from side to side, bouncing and hitting potholes. According to the officer, Sycamore Avenue is in disrepair with many potholes and bumps and has a 15 mph speed limit.
Near the intersection of Willow Drive and Sycamore Avenue, the officer said they were nearing 50 mph and “rapidly gaining speed.”
They continued traveling on Sycamore Avenue toward an old railroad bed, commonly called “the cut,” and Gump then slowed and made a left turn onto the dirt railroad bed, the complaint states.
According to the court papers, the officer tried to make contact with the rear bumper of Gump’s vehicle to disable it and end the pursuit, but Gump continued to accelerate and drove off road into “the cut.” The officer stated there are several large rocks and deep holes along and in the trail.
According to the complaint, the officer continued the pursuit down the narrow trail, feet from Gump’s bumper. While the officer was behind Gump, he struck a large rock, causing “catastrophic damage” to his vehicle and forcing him across the trail. There, his vehicle came to rest on top of a large boulder, the complaint states. The pursuit then ended, and the officer called dispatch and said a tow truck was needed.
The officer learned that a resident had caught part of the pursuit on a home camera system, and it was found on the video footage that a vehicle had just passed through the neighborhood minutes before the pursuit came through, the complaint states.
The officer said that because of the narrow road and the road’s condition, a serious accident could have resulted.