BUCKHANNON – An Upshur County man was arrested Wednesday after allegedly leading police on a chase through Lewis and Upshur counties that ended with him jumping into a Stonecoal Lake tributary.
James Fisher, 38, of French Creek, was arrested for two felonies — fleeing while driving under the influence and fleeing with reckless indifference — and three misdemeanors: improper registration, fleeing on foot and possession of methamphetamine.
According to the criminal complaint in the Upshur County Magistrate Clerk’s Office, on Wednesday, March 9, at approximately 10 p.m., Upshur County Sheriff’s Deputies Cole Bender and Tyler Chidester were notified of a dark-colored Toyota Tacoma traveling into Upshur County from Lewis County via the Hackers Creek Road.
Bender spotted the vehicle at the intersection of Hackers Creek and Mt. Lebanon Road and activated his blue lights and sirens and pursued the vehicle. Bender joined the pursuit at the intersection of Route 20 North and Hackers Creek Road, and both deputies followed the Tacoma, which was driving erratically, south on Route 20 North into Buckhannon city limits, the file says.
Once inside the city, Sgt. Tom Posey with the Buckhannon Police Department deployed stop sticks, but the driver of the vehicle, later identified as Fisher, was undeterred and allegedly made a right turn on U.S. Route 33 and then a left on Brushy Fork Road.
Law enforcement officers saw “bits of tire” being left behind by the vehicle, which continued onto Stonecoal Road, where it abruptly slowed down as a result of damage to the passenger-side tires, according to the police report.
The Tacoma eventually wrecked into a ditch. Fisher climbed out and allegedly began to run behind a residence on Stonecoal Road. He then jumped into the water behind the residence prior to deputies apprehending him, the file says.
Fisher appeared to be “disoriented and uncoordinated,” having bloodshot, watery eyes and a raspy voice. Due to the crash, no field sobriety test was conducted, the complaint says.
Deputies noted the West Virginia registration sticker displayed on the vehicle did not belong on the Tacoma but instead to a 1997 Jeep, according to the report. During a search of the vehicle, officers allegedly found several small plastic bags, a glass smoking device with a white residue inside and a small trace of white powder on the driver’s seat.
Bender also located ammunition in a backpack in the vehicle, according to the report. Fisher was then transported to St. Joseph’s Hospital for treatment prior to being arraigned by Upshur County Magistrate Mark Davis, who set bail at $30,000 cash only.
As of Thursday evening, Fisher remained incarcerated in the Tygart Valley Regional Jail, according to the West Virginia Regional Jail & Correctional Authority website.
The penalty for a conviction of fleeing while DUI is confinement in the state penitentiary for not less than three nor more than 10 years, while the penalty for the other felony, fleeing with reckless indifference, is imprisonment 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.