Police chase zooms down Main St.

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BUCKHANNON — A police chase reached speeds of 50 mph on city streets Monday.

John Franklin Arbogast, 49, of Buckhannon, was allegedly under the influence and driving a stolen truck as he sped down city streets,  nearly causing several head-on collisions. He was ultimately arrested for four felonies and two misdemeanors.

Patrolman Tanner Collins spotted Arbogast on Camden Avenue and knew he did not have a license, according to Lt. Doug Loudin with the Buckhannon Police Department.

“He turned around on him and initiated his traffic lights and siren and that’s when the pursuit occurred,” Loudin said.

PFC Marshall O’Connor joined in the pursuit on Marion Street and became the lead vehicle. He noted in the criminal complaint that Arbogast ran several stop signs, utilized the opposing lane to pass several vehicles, had multiple near miss head-on collisions and exceeded the speed limit by as much as 35 mph on some roads in his attempt to get away.

The vehicle, a brown Ford F150, had been reported stolen out of Harrison County on June 30.

Loudin said the pursuit was not what was considered a high-speed chase, although in some areas it was above the speed limit.

During the pursuit, Arbogast nearly hit two pedestrians and a motorcycle in an alley off of Cleveland Avenue, according to Loudin. 

The lieutenant said it was the officer’s discretion to call off the pursuit if he feels it is unsafe.

“Obviously if it becomes too dangerous, they can call off the pursuit,” he said.

The city units of Collins, O’Connor and Sgt. Tom Posey were joined by Upshur County Sheriff’s Department deputies and West Virginia State Police troopers as the pursuit left city limits and continued out Route 20.

It ended at Pringle Tree Park. Arbogast and a passenger in the vehicle, Selina Critchfield, 21, were taken into custody.

Critchfield allegedly told O’Connor that Arbogast had passed her four baggies of meth and a scale and ordered her to hide them, according to the criminal complaint. Critchfield hid the items in her bra but willfully turned them over to police. When O’Connor questioned Arbogast about the drugs, he allegedly first advised he knew nothing about them but then said, “I’ll take the charges for them too.”

Loudin said Critchfield could face a charge of possession with intent to deliver, a felony, for having the drugs on her. The West Virginia State Police may be the investigating agency in her case due to the vehicle being in the county at the time of her arrest.

Critchfield had not been arraigned as of the time the magistrate clerk’s office closed Tuesday.

Arbogast allegedly admitted to being “high” or under the influence of drugs. He showed impairment on all standard field sobriety tests as well having constricted pupils, droopy eyelids and a lack of convergence. Arbogast consented to a blood draw and was taken to St. Joseph’s Hospital.

Arbogast has nine prior convictions in Upshur County for operating a vehicle without a license — three are guilty pleas from 2004, 2010 and 2017 and six are no contest pleas from 2003, 2017 and 2018.

Arbogast was arrested for possession of a stolen vehicle, a felony; fleeing with reckless indifference, a felony; fleeing from officer while DUI, a felony; possession with intent to deliver, a felony; driving under the influence, a misdemeanor; and no operators, third or subsequent offense, a misdemeanor.

Magistrate Mike Coffman set bond at $65,000 during an arraignment Tuesday afternoon.

Possession of a stolen vehicle carries possible imprisonment for not less than one year nor more than five years and/or a fine of $500 to $1,000 while fleeing with reckless indifference carries a fine of $1,000 to $2,000 and imprisoned in a state correctional facility for one to five years. Fleeing from an officer while DUI carries three to 10 years in prison and possession with intent to deliver carries one to five years in prison and/or a fine up to $15,000.

Driving under the influence, a misdemeanor, carries up to six months in jail and a fine of $100 to $500 and having no operators carries a fine of not more than $500 and/or jail up to six months in jail.

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