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Westmoreland

North Huntingdon Police nab theft suspect who fled officers in chase Sunday, injuring two

| Monday, Feb. 26, 2018, 4:18 a.m.
Willie Charles Johnson, is arraigned at District Judge Wayne Gongaware's office, in North Huntingdon, on Monday, Feb. 26, 2018.
Dan Speicher | Tribune-Review
Willie Charles Johnson, is arraigned at District Judge Wayne Gongaware's office, in North Huntingdon, on Monday, Feb. 26, 2018.
A tow truck tries to remove a wrecked car, after Willie Charles Johnson allegedly crashed the car into a pool along Roberta Drive in North Huntingdon Sunday evening while fleeing from police, as seen on Monday, Feb. 26, 2018.
Dan Speicher | Tribune-Review
A tow truck tries to remove a wrecked car, after Willie Charles Johnson allegedly crashed the car into a pool along Roberta Drive in North Huntingdon Sunday evening while fleeing from police, as seen on Monday, Feb. 26, 2018.
Willie Charles Johnson, is arraigned at District Judge Wayne Gongaware;s office, in North Huntingdon, on Monday, Feb. 26, 2018.
Dan Speicher | Tribune-Review
Willie Charles Johnson, is arraigned at District Judge Wayne Gongaware;s office, in North Huntingdon, on Monday, Feb. 26, 2018.
Willie Charles Johnson Jr.
North Huntingdon Police Department
Willie Charles Johnson Jr.

A Pittsburgh man said he fled from North Huntingdon police during a traffic stop late Sunday because he knew there were warrants out for his arrest.

"I didn't want to go to jail, that's why I ran," Willie Charles Johnson Jr., 26, told reporters after his arraignment Monday.

He laughed as North Huntingdon police led him from the office of District Judge Wayne Gongaware to the Westmoreland County Prison, where he is being held without bond.

Police spent several hours overnight searching a residential area of the township for Johnson, who authorities said ditched his car after crashing during a police chase and fled on foot.

"I think there's a very good chance that you would not show up to any hearings," Gongaware said in declining to set a bond for Johnson.

Police said the white Chrysler sedan that Johnson drove was connected to a retail theft incident in Bethel Park, according to an affidavit. Officers stopped Johnson around 10 p.m. Sunday at a Sunoco gas station parking lot at Route 30 and Colonial Manor Road.

Johnson allegedly got into a scuffle with two township officers, one of whom was struck by the other officer's electroshock weapon while he tried to grab the suspect, police said in a criminal complaint.

Johnson allegedly sped off, trapping one officer's arm in the door and dragging him a short distance, police said. That officer received treatment at Forbes Hospital in Monroeville.

The car fled onto Colonial Manor Road and then Five Pines Road before driving through yards and crashing into a backyard fence of a Roberta Drive home. The vehicle was towed Monday morning.

Police searched the area with the help of North Huntingdon's police dog, Nero, but failed to find Johnson. They called off the search at 1 a.m. Monday.

A passenger in the vehicle identified Johnson as the driver.

Police were unavailable Monday to say how the suspect was apprehended.

Police found the vehicle Johnson was driving had been stolen in Pittsburgh.

During the arraignment, North Huntingdon Officer Jay Kettren told Gongaware that Johnson has several warrants for his arrest in Bethel Park and Allegheny County.

Johnson is charged with three counts of aggravated assault, and fleeing and eluding police, simple assault, flight to avoid prosecution, receiving stolen property, reckless driving, and criminal mischief.

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