French Creek man arrested after allegedly fleeing from police, striking truck near Walmart

BUCKHANNON – An Upshur County man was arrested Friday after allegedly fleeing from an officer in a vehicle and hitting a truck.

Thomas J. Miller, 32, of French Creek, was arrested for fleeing with reckless indifference, a felony; driving revoked for DUI third offense, a felony; and driving suspended, a misdemeanor.

According to the criminal complaint in the Upshur County Magistrate Clerk’s Office filed by investigating officer Trooper Z.M. Lewis with the Buckhannon detachment of the West Virginia State Police, on Friday Nov. 12 at approximately 10:20 p.m., Lewis received an anonymous tip that Miller was driving on Route 20 North near Walmart.

Due to prior experience, Lewis was aware that Miller had previously been charged with driving revoked for DUI third offense, the report states. The anonymous tip indicated Miller was driving a silver 2010 Mazda M3I, which was the same vehicle Lewis associated with Miller from prior incidents, the file states. The trooper saw the vehicle turn left from the Sheetz gas station on to Route 20 North, so he activated the blue lights on his cruiser to initiate a traffic stop.

According to the report, the vehicle allegedly did not yield, but instead began to gradually pick up speed. The vehicle allegedly attempted to pass a white truck by driving into oncoming traffic and crossing a double-yellow-striped line. Upon attempting to pass the truck, the vehicle allegedly struck the rear end of the truck with the front right passenger side of the vehicle.

Lewis saw the vehicle was leaking fluid as it began to slow down next to a guardrail. When the vehicle came to a full stop, the driver opened his door and allegedly began running from Lewis despite the trooper having identified himself as a police officer and giving Miller several commands to stop. After a short foot pursuit with Miller, Lewis was able to successfully apprehend him.

Lewis brought Miller back to the vehicle and spoke with the two other occupants of the vehicle, who were reportedly detained on-scene Buckhannon Police Department officers.

The occupants told police they were going to Walmart for groceries. They also said once Lewis activated his emergency lights, Miller had allegedly stated, “I’m not going to jail” and quickly accelerated, the file says.

According the WVSP database, Miller’s criminal record allegedly showed two prior convictions of driving while revoked for DUI with conviction dates of March 17, 2009, and Sept. 13, 2016. Lewis obtained Miller’s driving record, which also reportedly showed he was suspended for unpaid citations with the most recent conviction date being Jan.18, 2019, the police report indicates. Miller also allegedly had an active case from Aug. 28, 2021, for driving revoked third offense and fleeing with reckless indifference.

Upshur County Magistrate Alan Suder set bail at $31,500 cash or surety.

The penalty for a conviction of fleeing with reckless indifference is confinement in the state penitentiary for not less than one nor more than five years and a fine of not less than $1,000 nor more than $2,000. The penalty for driving revoked for DUI third offense is confinement in the state penitentiary for not less than one year nor more than three years, and in addition to the mandatory prison sentence, a fine of not less than $3,000 nor more than $5,000.

Additionally, the potential penalty for driving suspended is a fine not less than $100 nor more than $500.

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