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Man charged after chase, hitting police cars

  • Exner
Published April 20. 2017 09:27PM

A Lehighton man is in prison after he crashed his vehicle into a police car.

Johnathan Exner, 26, faces eight counts of running stop signs, and one count each of fleeing or attempting to elude police officer, possession of drug paraphernalia, resisting arrest, flight to avoid apprehension, trial or punishment, driving without a license, reckless driving, careless driving, driving the wrong way, and operation of vehicle without an inspection sticker.

According to the affidavit of probable cause filed by Mahoning Township police officer Tyler Meek:

On March 11, township officer Gabriel Szozda was involved in a pursuit with a black Nissan Maxima, which eluded police.

At 11:27 a.m. Monday, Meek was on patrol in an unmarked police SUV when he saw the same vehicle in the area of Center Street.

At the intersection of Jamestown Drive and Center Street, the car ran a stop sign, so Meek attempted to stop him, but the vehicle sped up, running astop sign, and turning left onto Spring Hill Road, where it drove past a marked police sedan with its emergency lights activated.

The car kept going, running three more stop signs and passing more cars, eventually turning the wrong way onto Carbon Street.

Running stop signs

The car continued, running past a Lehighton Police SUV with its emergency lights activated.

The driver, identified as Exner, ignored the SUV

At the intersection of Second and Coal streets, Exner blew through a stop sign, and nearly hit the driver side of an unmarked Lehighton Police SUV with its emergency lights and siren activated.

Exner turned onto Coal Street, then turned left onto North Center Alley, and right onto North Street,nearly causing a crash.

After more turns and more missed stops signs, the Maxima turned right onto Mahoning Alley, nearly striking a man who was walking his dog in the alley, before turning left onto Ninth Street.

Near the intersection with Mahoning Street, Exner crossed into the oncoming (northbound) lane of traffic. At the same time, an unmarked Lehighton Police SUV with emergency lights and sirens activated turned right from Mahoning Street into the northbound lane.

Striking police cars

The car went up onto the curb and hit a Lehighton police SUV at Ninth and Mahoning Streets. The car hit shrubbery in the yard of a residence on the corner, then turned left onto Mahoning Street, right onto South Eighth Street and ran a stop sign on Iron Street.

The Nissan swerved at a Mahoning police SUV in the 700 block of Iron Street before striking a Mahoning police sedan. The car was blocked by four police vehicles.

The front seat passenger and rear passenger got out of the car with their hands up, and both passengers were placed under arrest without resistance.

Exner was unable to get out through the driver’s side door and began to climb out the passenger door.

Officer Jeff Frace arrested him and learned he had active warrants from Carbon County and Luzerne County Adult Probation. A records check showed Exner does not have a valid driver’s license.

Passengers were Trevor Hunsicker, who had an active warrant from Lehigh County and Kevin Tansley, who had active warrants from Schuylkill and Luzerne counties.

Meek searched the car and found a black pouch containing a syringe, numerous empty wax bags, rubber bands, and a small spoon.

The pouch was in a book bag, which also had a lottery ticket with Exner’s information on the back.

Exner said the drug paraphernalia was his.

Exner is in the Carbon County Correctional Facility in lieu of $50,000, 10 percent bail.

He is scheduled to have a preliminary hearing at 2 p.m. May 3 before District Judge Eric Schrantz.

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