By CHARLES OWENS
Bluefield Daily Telegraph
One officer was hospitalized, and three police cruisers were damaged Tuesday, following an early morning high-speed chase in Princeton involving a man wanted out of Virginia.
The pursuit began at 1:48 a.m. after officers detected a 1999 Audi driving at a high rate of speed along Courthouse Road in Princeton. Lt. E.T. Pugh of the Princeton Police Department registered the vehicle driving 64 mph in a 45 mph zone, Princeton Police Chief J.W. Howell said.
Howell said the officer attempted to initiate a traffic stop, but the vehicle operated by Jerry D. Martin Jr., 31, of Virginia, instead pulled into the parking lot of Sheetz on Courthouse Road, didn’t stop and accelerated through the parking lot of the convenience station. The vehicle operated by Martin then turned onto Old Bluefield-Princeton Road. Howell said Martin was wanted out of Charlottesville, Va., on a probation violation for a grand larceny charge, and also was wanted out of Waynesboro, Va., on a failure to appear charge.
At that point, other officers with the Princeton Police Department, and deputies with the Mercer County Sheriff’s Department, joined Pugh in the pursuit of the suspect vehicle. During the chase, Howell said the vehicle operated by Martin struck two Princeton Police Department cruisers causing minor front-end damage to the vehicles.
A short time later during the pursuit, the suspect vehicle turned onto Old Bluefield-Princeton Road for a second time traveling back toward Princeton. At that point, Howell said a police cruiser operated by Officer E.D. Leftwich, also of the Princeton Police Department, was sitting on the side of the road along Old Bluefield-Princeton Road, next to the junction of U.S. Route 460, when the suspect vehicle entered a sharp curve. Howell said Martin lost control of the vehicle, which in return struck the police cruiser knocking it about 35 to 40 feet off the side of the road and into a utility pole. Both vehicles then came to a stop at that point.
“EMS was called and officer Leftwich had to be extricated from his vehicle,” Howell said. “He was then airlifted to Roanoke Memorial Hospital where he has been treated and released.”
Howell said the officer is OK. “He’s just real bruised up and had some minor cuts on his head,” Howell said. The police cruiser operated by Leftwich was a total loss.
Howell said Martin was initially transported to Princeton Community Hospital where he was then airlifted to Roanoke Memorial Hospital as well.
Howell said Martin is facing multiple city charges, including two counts of attempted murder, fleeing, reckless indifference, speeding and two counts of fleeing with property damage. Howell said the two counts of attempted murder are in connection with the first two police cruisers Martin struck. He said additional charges involving the third police cruiser are expected to be filed by the Mercer County Sheriff’s Department, which is handling the investigation into the pursuit and subsequent crash.
Howell said the officers in the first two police cruisers struck by Martin were not injured.
The Princeton Rescue Squad and East River Volunteer Fire Department also responded to the incident.
— Contact Charles Owens at email@example.com