CLEARFIELD – A Grampian man has been accused of leading police on a high-speed pursuit.
Dustin L. Welder, 32, has been charged by Officer Joseph Witherite of the Curwensville Borough police with felony fleeing and attempting to elude an officer; misdemeanor DUI/controlled substance; three misdemeanor counts of intentional possession of a controlled substance; six misdemeanor counts of use/possession of drug paraphernalia; and 10 summaries.
Welder waived his right to a preliminary hearing Wednesday during centralized court at the Clearfield County Jail. His bail is currently set at $50,000 monetary.
According to the affidavit of probable cause, shortly after 7 p.m. March 14, Witherite was on routine patrol at the intersection of Mary Lane and Naulton Road and saw a dark blue Jeep Cherokee travel by his police unit.
Because of his past encounters with the same vehicle, he pulled out and turned onto Naulton Road. He saw the operator quickly turn left onto West Street and he made the same turn to continue observations of the vehicle.
At this point, Witherite said the operator accelerated, causing a cloud of dust to form and debris to be thrown about the air. He proceeded to activate his overhead emergency lights to initiate a traffic stop.
However, the operator reportedly continued to accelerate, driving in an “unsafe” manner in an attempt to flee from him. The vehicle crossed over Bailey Road without stopping, continued on West Street and turned right onto Wood Street.
From there, the vehicle turned right onto Hudson Street and then onto Bailey Road without stopping at properly posted stop signs. Witherite proceeded to activate his audible signals along with his emergency lights.
On Bailey Road, the Jeep passed another driver who had pulled off the roadway in order to avoid a collision. At the end of Bailey Road, the vehicle turned right onto Shadybrook Road before continuing onto Ferncliff and Morgan roads.
While on Morgan Road, the vehicle came to an abrupt stop and was put in reverse. It then started to back up toward the police unit, and Witherite was reportedly forced to swerve to avoid a collision.
The Jeep then went forward and fled on Morgan Road and Naulton Road Extension, where Witherite said it was driven in an “extremely hazardous” manner on the wrong side of the roadway.
By this point, Witherite had already requested assistance from the Lawrence Township police and state police. He sought additional assistance from Sandy Township officers with the vehicle heading toward the DuBois area.
The pursuit continued onto Ridge Avenue, Ridge Avenue Extension and Greenwood Road. From there, the vehicle turned left onto Bear Run Road, where road conditions became difficult to drive in and Witherite lost sight of the vehicle.
However, he continued to follow tracks left in the mud and in some areas snow until he observed the Jeep turning around up ahead. Witherite was unable to drive any further down Bear Run Road due to a tree blocking the roadway.
Witherite saw the operator turn around and drive toward his police unit. As the vehicle went by, Witherite yelled for the operator to stop but he did not; he drove through the woods until re-entering Bear Run Road.
Witherite turned around and started to pursue the Jeep but once again found it difficult due to road conditions and the operator having a head start. The operator also turned before spike trips set up by police and continued through the woods.
Officer Elliott Neeper of the Lawrence Township police was eventually able to stop the vehicle. Because the suspect had ignored Neeper’s commands and attempted to flee on foot, Neeper deployed his taser; this allowed Witherite and Neeper to apprehend him.
While he was being taken into custody, the suspect identified himself to the officers as Welder, and Witherite learned he had an active warrant through the Clearfield-based state police.
Inside his hoodie pocket, Welder allegedly had a pink zip-up bag containing syringes and several baggies of methamphetamine. Welder told Neeper – when asked – that he had used the drug earlier that same day.
Neeper, who is also a Drug Recognition Expert, administered field sobriety examinations on Welder. At one point, he observed a white substance in Welder’s nostril; Welder reportedly said a blood test would show results for methamphetamine and Subutex.
Upon completion of his examination, Neeper determined Welder was under the influence and subsequently transported him to the Penn Highlands Clearfield Hospital to have a legal blood draw. All evidence will be sent to the crime lab for analysis.