A Portage man’s attempt to escape police in his SUV ended in his arrest early Sunday morning when the vehicle went airborne and stopped suddenly as it landed amid a shower of sparks, authorities reported.
Ethan Perez, 18, was charged Tuesday with felony counts of eluding an officer and reckless endangerment as well as misdemeanor counts of operating a vehicle while intoxicated, possession of marijuana, possession of drug paraphernalia and bail jumping.
The incident began at about 3 a.m. when a Portage police officer noticed an SUV speeding through southwest Portage southbound on Dunn Street. The officer followed the vehicle as it turned onto Conant Street, then north on Cass Street, before turning into an alley.
The officer estimated the SUV was traveling at up to 60 mph in town and turned on his lights and siren. While in pursuit of the SUV, the officer reported it sped through the alleyway and across Armstrong Street without slowing down.
The SUV reportedly went airborne before coming to a stop. The officer noted he saw sparks fly from the underside of the vehicle before it stopped.
When Perez was asked why he drove like that, according to court documents he told the officer that he believed law enforcement was always following him and harassing him.
The four passengers in the SUV, one 14 years old and the others 17, initially told the officer they did not know why Perez drove recklessly, but then said Perez began evading as soon as he saw the police vehicle.
Perez declined to take sobriety tests, reportedly saying, “What is the point?” and suggesting the officer knew well enough that Perez was not sober. Police believe Perez was under the influence of marijuana while driving.
At his initial court appearance Tuesday in Columbia County Circuit Court, Judge W. Andrew Voigt ordered Perez held on $1,000 cash bond. He is scheduled to next appear in the case for an Oct. 25 hearing.
He also is scheduled to appear Sept. 28 for a deferred prosecution hearing in a February case in which he was charged with possession of marijuana and possession with intent to deliver on or near school grounds.