A Lockport man faces a total of 34 criminal and traffic charges in three different townships stemming from a wild police chase that began in Newfane and ended at the Orleans County line on the night of Jan. 5.
Police said the driver hit speeds of 80 mph while driving on the wrong side of the road, forcing oncoming motorists to leave the highway to avoid head-on collisions. At least three police cars from two different agencies were likewise forced to take evasive actions as the fleeing driver headed directly at them, according to reports.
During the course of the chase, the occupants of the fleeing vehicle also chucked several packages of meat from the car windows. The steaks and other cuts had been stolen earlier from the Tops Market at Wrights Corners, police said. Police also recovered a suspected crack pipe out of the car after it finally went off the roadway at the Orleans County border just before midnight.
Niagara County sheriff's deputies said they first attempted to pull over a car operated by Shawn K. Pittler, 30, on Wheeler Road in Newfane. They said the vehicle he was driving had only a rear license plate, and that it did not belong on that vehicle. Pittler reportedly sped off and was "all over the road" while trying to elude officers.
The chase went through the Town of Hartland and into the Village of Middleport, where a Middleport police cruiser was nearly struck head-on, according to reports. Two Niagara County sheriff's vehicles were forced to drive onto sidewalks to avoid being struck head-on.
Approaching County Line Road, the fleeing vehicle left the roadway and went into a field, with the driver jumping from the still-moving car and running toward a nearby wooded area. Two women passengers in the vehicle were detained while a K-9 unit was called in to search for the fleeing driver. He was eventually located, about 30 yards into the woods, where police said he was lying on the ground in an attempt to avoid detection.
One passenger, Anne M. Leturgey, 33, of Spring Street, Lockport, was found to be wanted on an outstanding warrant and was turned over to the Lockport Police Department. The second woman was released without charges.
Pittler, police said, had a suspended driver's license stemming from several incidents, including failure to pay fines, answer summonses and pay child support in various jurisdictions. Among the charges the Chestnut Street resident faces are multiple counts of aggravated unlicensed operation and reckless driving, petit larceny, unlawfully fleeing a police officer and numerous traffic charges. He was jailed without bail pending future court appearances.
Police confiscated a suspected crack pipe from the car he was driving and sent it for testing, with additional charges pending the outcome of those tests.