Two men arrested by Tamaqua police following a high-speed chase late Sunday night are garnering a lot of attention from local, state and federal law enforcement officials, and are suspects in a string of armed robberies throughout the area.
Local officials wouldn't officially comment specifically on the expansive interest, but Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) officials attended the men's Monday arraignment before District Judge Stephen Bayer, Tamaqua, and expressed their interest in the individuals "concerning an ongoing investigation. There are charges pending in several other incidents," according to an agent who asked to remain unnamed at this time.
Jose William Nunoz, 18, who told Bayer he "lives off and on with his mother and an aunt at 666 N. Locust St., Hazleton," was arraigned on charges of receiving stolen property, possessing a firearm without the required license, fleeing or attempting to elude law enforcement, reckless driving, careless driving, driving an unregistered vehicle, driving without insurance, driving without a valid inspection, following too closely and driving without an operator's license.
His front seat passenger in the silver Mustang was Tysheed Laron Hargrove, 18, who told the judge he had no permanent address. Hargrove was charged with receiving stolen property and possessing a firearm without the required license.
Nunoz was driving a silver Mustang Sunday night when the vehicle came to the attention of Tamaqua Patrolman Robert Minnick, who was conducting extra patrols due to recent armed robberies. Unable to see a license plate for the Ford, which was stopped partially in the roadway, Minnick pulled up and tried to attract the attention of the driver. The Mustang pulled out, traveling north on Center Street (SR309). When the vehicle turned right on to Broad Street (SR209), Minnick activated his cruiser's lights and the Ford came to a complete stop near the Pine Street intersection.
When the officer began exiting his vehicle, the Mustang sped away, traveling east on Broad Street. Minnick began a pursuit and observed the Mustang forcing several other vehicles off the roadway. The chase continued along 209 with the suspect vehicle spinning out near the Coaldale/Lansford line. Nunoz regained control and continued traveling east. By this time, patrol cars from neighboring communities had joined the effort to stop the vehicle.
The vehicles continued east with the Mustang passing the cruiser of Nesquehoning Patrolman Carl Breiner, who had attempted to slow things down. As the pursuit moved on to SR54, Breiner was able to pass the Mustang, pull in front of the suspect and again attempt to slow it down. The Mustang struck the cruiser. The chase ended when Breiner was able to execute a controlled maneuver.
Once the occupants were removed from the Mustang and identified, a search of the vehicle was conducted. Officers found a 9 mm. Beretta pistol on the floor, in plain view, in front of the front passenger seat. The weapon's serial number was entered into the NCIC crime base, which revealed it had been reported as stolen on Nov. 12, 2010.
Two rear seat passengers in the Mustang were taken into custody, questioned and later released.
When Bayer considered the issue of bail, Tamaqua Police Chief Dave Mattson requested a high bail amount, concerned the men were a possible flight risk.
"Nesquehoning police will be filing charges related to this incident and federal and state officials are questioning the suspects in connection with some other issues.
Noting the men had already attempted to flee, and their lack of connection to Pennsylvania (both previously resided in New Jersey), Bayer set bail at $100,000 straight cash bond for each man.
Both were transported to the Schuylkill County Prison in Pottsville.
After the hearing Mattson deferred to federal authorities when asked about the possibility the two men were involved in a series of armed robberies in the area.
"Any other possible crimes these two men may be involved with will be prosecuted by the Federal Bureau of Investigation."
Mattson also commended Officer Minnick.
"He did an exceptional job. His vigilance made the streets safer for our residents and business owners." He added, "I'd like to thank all the officers and departments that assisted and brought the incident to an end without anyone getting hurt."
FBI Special Agent Nancy O'Dowd confirmed the agency's interest in Nunoz and Hargrove, noting "the investigation is in its early stages and the FBI, at this point, is assisting local and state law enforcement agencies. At this time, we haven't taken over the case. We're not the lead agency. We're simply assisting due to the involvement of multiple jurisdictions. Our role, and that of local and state agencies, will be determined over the next few days." She went on to commend the officers and agencies involved in Sunday night's arrest. "These two men were taken off the streets thanks to the great cooperative efforts between so many agencies."
Assisting Tamaqua police during the high-speed chase were officers from Coaldale, Lansford, Rush Township, Jim Thorpe and Nesquehoning.