MARTINSBURG, W.Va.—The 16-year-old driver of a stolen car chased by police Thursday afternoon in and around Martinsburg was traveling recklessly before the pursuit began near Martinsburg High School, police said.
The pursuit, which began around 2:50 p.m., ended less than three minutes later in the 700 block of Winchester Avenue where the car, driven by a teenage boy, crashed, injuring two passengers, police said.
Reported stolen Thursday morning, the 2009 Kia sedan that the boy was driving reached speeds of about 70 mph during the pursuit, Martinsburg Police Chief Kevin Miller said.
Miller and Berkeley County Sheriff Kenneth Lemaster said Friday they believed that chase procedures were followed by their officers.
“In two minutes, you don’t have a lot of time to do anything,” Lemaster said. “It wasn’t like (the officers) were out cowboying.”
The pursuit began on Bulldog Boulevard, where the car “blew” through the school zone between the high school and Martinsburg South Middle School, Martinsburg Police Capt. Tim Catlett said Friday.
Upon reaching South Queen Street, the car turned right and then turned right again to continue traveling west on W.Va. 45 before turning right a third time onto Winchester Avenue (U.S. 11), police said.
After the vehicle nearly struck the vehicle that Deputy Lt. Ron Gardner was driving near the agency’s headquarters off South Queen Street, Lemaster said the officer joined the effort to stop the car. The deputy then took the lead in the chase after the car left the city on South Queen Street, Lemaster said.
By the time the vehicle re-entered the city on Winchester Avenue, Lemaster said Gardner had slowed his vehicle and wasn’t close to the stolen car when it struck the stairs and retaining wall of a building and a parked vehicle and then overturned.
In video footage recorded from Gardner’s cruiser, “you can barely see the car,” Lemaster said of the apparent distance separating the deputy’s vehicle from the Kia.
The 16-year-old driver fled the scene after he crashed the vehicle, but was caught after a six-block foot chase, police said. Two other teenagers were taken to City Hospital for treatment, police had said. West Virginia State Police assisted with the foot pursuit, but were not involved otherwise, Miller said.
Martinsburg police did not know a juvenile was behind the wheel until after the suspect fled on foot, Catlett said.
“We don’t feel that there was any policy violated on our part,” Miller said when asked whether the department chase policies were followed.
At the school, police said the stolen car passed several stopped school buses and nearly struck students who were boarding. Stop signals were activated on the buses, police said.
The juvenile was charged with theft of a motor vehicle, possession of a stolen vehicle, reckless driving, fleeing on foot, resisting arrest, driving with no operator’s (license) and wanton endangerment, police said.