Man charged following high-speed chase
A Towanda man suspected of having a young child with him while he led authorities on a high-speed chase has been sent a summons to appear before Magisterial District Judge Tim Clark to answer various charges.
According to information filed at Clark's office, Dillon Robert Benjamin, 22, has been charged by Towanda police with endangering the welfare of a child; recklessly endangering another person; driving while his license was suspended or revoked; failure to obey traffic control devices; failure to use his turn signal; operating a vehicle at an unsafe speed; careless driving; and reckless driving.
The incident that led to the charges being filed against Benjamin occurred on May 30 in Towanda Borough. Towanda officer Josh Lake reported being on duty at the police department headquarters around 12:40 p.m. when he and other officers heard yelling and screaming outside the office. Going outside, Lake reported that they heard a vehicle take off from Park Street at a high rate of speed. The vehicle was later identified as a 2005 Dodge Ram, and the operator identified as Benjamin. Lake said he and other officers observed the Dodge turn onto Merrill Parkway and head north. The Ram then headed west onto State Street, Lake said, with the vehicle breaking traction and then squealing its tires.
Getting into a police cruiser, Lake said he was the first officer to follow the pickup, with Chief Randy Epler and Det. Al Ogden also in pursuit. As he pulled onto State Street, Lake continued, he activated his lights and siren. Lake said he observed the pickup accelerate to an even faster speed, then turn north onto Third Street without using the proper signal. State police were called in for assistance at this point.
As he turned onto Third Street, Lake said, he had lost visual contact with the black Dodge. A witness pointed and yelled that the pickup had turned west onto Lombard Street, and Lake did the same. Speaking with another witness in the area, Lake was informed that the pickup had driven by at a very high rate of speed. The area in question is a school zone, and school was in session at the time, according to reports.
Lake and other officers continued to search the area - including State Street, Bridge Street Hill, and Old Plank Road, but with negative results. The search was called off at that point, but Chief Epler informed Lake that the Bradford County Sheriff's Office had caught some of the incident on their security cameras.
Lake again spoke with the witness who had observed the Ram pass through the area, who said the Ram had cut through the Ss. Peter and Paul Church parking lot, and when it turned onto Lombard Street, she thought it was going to wreck as it was "going very fast." The witness also reported the pickup had not stopped as it exited the parking lot.
Lake next spoke to Bradford County Sheriff C.J. Walters, who said that their security cameras had earlier recorded the Dodge coming off Poplar Street, following a black car. Walters told Lake both vehicles stopped in front of the Towanda police station, and Benjamin was observed in the pickup, arguing with a person who had gotten out of the black car. Lake also spoke with Det. Al Ogden, who said he had spoken with one of the people in the car. From Ogden's description, Lake said, he determined the identity of the person was Vicki Potter, and later spoke with her. Potter informed Lake that Benjamin and her daughter had earlier gotten into an argument which started to turn physical. During the incident, Potter explained, Benjamin had "ripped" a baby from her daughter's arms.
Potter said she went to the Towanda police station to report the incident, with Benjamin following in the black pickup truck. Outside the station, Potter continued, a second altercation occurred.
Lake asked Potter if she knew if the child had been with Benjamin during the high speed pursuit. Potter said she was not certain, but knew that the child had been with him earlier.
Lake then went to the residence of Benjamin's parents, and recognized a Dodge Ram sitting in the back yard as the vehicle which he had pursued earlier in the day. The parents informed Lake that Benjamin was in the house, and had him come out and speak with him.
When asked if he had had an issue with someone earlier in the day, Benjamin informed Lake that they got into an argument that "got a little out of hand." When Lake asked Benjamin why he had failed to stop his vehicle during the pursuit, Benjamin replied "I didn't know there were cops behind me." Lake informed Benjamin that he did not believe him, and that he was not being truthful. Lake pointed out how the pickup was observed traveling at a high rate of speed, which Benjamin denied - insisting he was following a minivan at the time. Lake then informed Benjamin that witnesses had observed the high-speed incident, but he again denied driving at a high rate of speed. Lake reported that he observed Benjamin's daughter standing next to him during the interview, and asked Benjamin if he had her with him while he was driving the Dodge; which Benjamin confirmed.
Benjamin's preliminary hearing has been scheduled for Aug. 8 before Judge Clark.