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Chase suspect faces charges in 2 cases

| Thursday, April 24, 2014, 1:06 a.m.
Justin Gessel

A Carroll Township man was sent to prison Wednesday morning after he allegedly led multiple police departments on two separate high-speed chases Tuesday.

Justin Nash Gessel, 32, of 156 Taylor Run Road, was finally apprehended around 8:07 p.m. in New Eagle after police smashed through a window in his 2014 Chevrolet Sonic and placed him under arrest, Monongahela police Chief Brian Tempest said.

Gessel is the lone suspect in a Tuesday morning police chase from Monessen to the Mon/Fayette Expressway.

Monessen police Lt. Jim Smith said he pursued a dark gray Chevrolet after the driver refused to pull over for a traffic stop 10:13 a.m. at the intersection of First Street and Schoonmaker Avenue.

The suspect sped up Tyrol Boulevard and made his way onto Interstate 70 West, Smith said. The chase was terminated when the driver reached the expressway, Smith said.

In an incident that occurred 10 hours later, Elizabeth Township police said they stopped Gessel at the intersection of state Route 51 and Weigels Run Road.

When officers approached the Chevrolet Sonic, Gessel allegedly threw the car into reverse and plowed into two police cars, nearly hitting three officers, Sgt. Gerald Cimba said.

No officers were injured and damage to the police cars was minimal, Cimba said.

Gessel allegedly led police on a 10-mile chase along Route 837 through West Elizabeth and Union Township before stopping just past a police roadblock in New Eagle.

“My guys set up a roadblock just before the intersection with Route 88 on 837. Now, we cannot completely block a road anymore,” Tempest said. “ ... You have to give an avenue of escape.”

Tempest said Gessel drove through the space and stopped less than 100 yards away.

Tempest said Monongahela K-9 officer Larry Maraldo was preparing for a foot chase.

“When Maraldo got there, he jumped back in his car and spun around,” Tempest said of the officer. “We thought (Gessel) had already jumped out of the car and we were going to have a foot pursuit, but there he was still sitting in his car.”

Tempest said police from various departments boxed in Gessel's car and began to approach. That's when the suspect rolled up the windows.

“He locked all the doors and wouldn't get out of the car, so police broke out the window,” Tempest said.

Tempest said he could not confirm a report that Gessel began injecting heroin just before police broke into the car.

However, police found a syringe near the place Gessel had been seated, along with both full and empty stamp bags of suspected heroin nearby, Tempest said.

Smith said Gessel matched the physical description, clothing and vehicle of the suspect who eluded him earlier in Monessen.

Smith said Monessen police are awaiting video surveillance to match a mug shot of Gessel taken by Allegheny County authorities after the second chase.

“There's very strong evidence it's the same individual, and pending verification, other charges are to be filed against him,” Smith said.

Police confirmed Gessel received medical treatment Tuesday night at Jefferson Regional Medical Center in Jefferson Hills for minor injuries suffered during his arrest.

Cimba said he transported Gessel from the hospital to the Allegheny County Jail at 12:25 a.m. Wednesday.

Elizabeth Township police charged Gessel with three counts of aggravated assault, four counts of reckless endangerment and one count each of false identification to law enforcement, resisting arrest, fleeing or attempting to elude police, possession of a controlled substance, possession of drug paraphernalia and five driving offenses.

He was arraigned Wednesday afternoon by Magisterial District Judge Kevin E. Cooper of Pittsburgh and returned to the Allegheny County Jail in lieu of $25,000 bond.

A preliminary hearing is scheduled 9 a.m. Monday before Magisterial District Judge Beth Scagline Mills in Forward Township.