BUCKHANNON – A Buckhannon man was arrested on three felony charges Thursday night after allegedly leading police on a high-speed pursuit that originated on the Beverly Five-Lane and wound its way into Upshur County.
Wesley Cunningham, 30, was arrested for fleeing while driving under the influence, fraudulent registration and fleeing with reckless indifference, all felonies.
According to the criminal complaint in the Upshur County Magistrate Clerk’s Office filed by investigating officer Trooper R.C. Watson with the West Virginia State Police in Beverly, on Thursday May 7, at approximately 7 p.m., Cpl. Boatwright with the Elkins Police Department spotted a white four-door vehicle with blue driving lights speeding on the Beverly Five-Lane.
When Boatwright initiated a traffic stop on the speeding vehicle, the driver of the vehicle, later identified as Cunningham, began to flee at a high rate of speed, heading south on the Beverly Five-Lane. Boatwright and members of the WVSP began pursuing the vehicle into Beverly, where they lost sight of the vehicle and terminated the pursuit.
About 30 minutes later, Watson, the investigating officer, was patrolling Coalton Road at the intersection of Mabie and Cassity roads when he contacted some bystanders and asked if they had seen a vehicle matching the description of white vehicle.
The file says bystanders told police a similar vehicle had just come through the intersection at a high rate of speed and was traveling north on Coalton Road. Watson headed north on Coalton Road until he caught up with a white Toyota Camry matching the description of the vehicle Cpl. Boatwright had been pursuing.
Watson followed the vehicle for a short distance until additional units arrived. According to the report, the vehicle pulled over onto the shoulder of the road and waved at Watson to go around him. Watson activated his emergency lights and pulled in behind the vehicle.
Watson then instructed the driver to step out of the vehicle, and according to the complaint, the driver, Cunningham, replied, ‘OK,” and began to open the driver door. However, the driver then allegedly accelerated at a high rate of speed and began fleeing from Watson.
According to the report, Watson pursued the vehicle as it allegedly fled on the Coalton Road, traveling speeds at approximately 90 mph until reaching Route 151 where the vehicle allegedly ran a stop sign and continued west on Route 151 into Upshur County.
Watson pursued the vehicle for approximately 9.5 miles on Route 151 at speeds of approximately 100 mph, before turning onto Mt. Union Road in Upshur County.
Watson reportedly saw the vehicle allegedly driving on the wrong side of the road for a significant amount of time. The vehicle was allegedly driving at speeds of about 80 mph through “heavily populated areas” and reportedly passed at least one vehicle on the inside of a left-handed turn.
“The vehicle then passed a church on Ketron Road and nearly struck some children on the shoulder of the road,” the officer wrote in the report.
Eventually, Cunningham stopped on the gravel road and began to exit the vehicle, but eventually began fleeing again and turned onto Burnt Bridge and drove for about three miles before coming to a stop.
The driver exited the vehicle and began approaching Watson with his hand in his waistband. According to the report, Cunningham repeatedly told police, “that he was done and just wanted Watson ‘to do it.’”
Officers arrested Cunningham and when officers asked him why he was fleeing, Cunningham said because he had been drinking, did not have a license and did not feel like stopping. At this time, other units began arriving on scene, and Cunningham was arrested and placed in a patrol vehicle.
The complaint says an investigation indicated there were alcoholic beverages inside the vehicle, and Watson and other officers also observed the registration on the vehicle appeared to have the bottom cut off of the plate and “a new expiration sticker taped onto the temporary license plate.”
Cunningham was subsequently transported to the Upshur County Sheriff’s Department for a secondary breathalyzer test, which he refused.
Bail was set at $25,000 for fleeing while DUI, $25,000 for fleeing with reckless indifference and $5,000 for fraudulent registration.
If convicted of fleeing while DUI, Cunningham could face confinement for not less than three nor more than 10 years in a state penitentiary. If convicted of fleeing with reckless indifference, he could also face a fine ranging between $1,000 and $2,000 and imprisonment for not less than one nor more than five years.
Finally, if convicted of fraudulent registration, he could face a penalty of imprisonment for not less than one year nor more than five years, a fine of not less than $500 nor more than $5,000 or both.