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Truck driver jailed in scuffle with trooper on Route 30 in Unity

| Monday, Aug. 11, 2014, 11:15 p.m.

A tractor-trailer driver from Unity is accused of scuffling with a state trooper who pulled him over on Route 30 near Wimmerton for allegedly impeding traffic.

Duane M. Winchell, 65, was arraigned on charges of aggravated assault, simple assault, resisting arrest, disorderly conduct, harassment and violating minimum-speed regulations before on-call Hempfield District Judge Mark Mansour. Winchell was placed in the Westmoreland County Prison, having failed to post $20,000 bond, court records show.

State police at Greensburg reported that the incident began about 10:15 a.m. Saturday, when Trooper Eric Zona saw Winchell driving a blue Freightliner tractor with an Illinois registration plate west on Route 30 near a McDonald's restaurant in Unity.

Zona initiated the traffic stop when he observed Winchell driving at a slow speed in the passing lane and “honking his horn,” Trooper Geoffrey Wills reported in an affidavit of probable cause filed before Unity District Judge Michael Mahady.

Zona reported that Winchell was “impeding traffic” and causing backups.

When Zona approached Winchell's truck, the trucker appeared agitated, Zona told Wills.

“As Zona approached the driver's side window, Winchell got verbally aggressive with Zona. Being that Trooper Zona was having trouble hearing what Winchell was saying, due to heavy traffic passing, Zona stepped up on the side of the truck to speak to Winchell,” Wills wrote.

“At one point, Zona warned Winchell to calm down or he was going to make the situation worse. Winchell then told Zona to come and get him and waved him on,” Wills said.

Zona retreated from the truck and ordered Winchell to step out of the vehicle. When Zona told Winchell he was going to place him in handcuffs while he gathered information on why Winchell was driving slowly, “Winchell grabbed (Zona) around the neck, and a scuffle ensued,” Wills wrote.

Zona broke free, subdued Winchell and placed him in handcuffs, the affidavit said.

Zona suffered a scratched and bruised neck, according to police.

Wills took written statements from Route 30 travelers who witnessed the confrontation and telephoned 911 dispatchers. The witnesses indicated they would be willing to testify at court proceedings, police said.

Winchell's preliminary hearing is scheduled for Aug. 18 before Mahady.

Paul Peirce is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. He can be reached at ppeirce@tribweb.com or 724-850-2860.

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