Teen Leads Police on High Speed Pursuit, Crashes in Punxsutawney Borough

PUNXSUTAWNEY BOROUGH, Pa. (EYT) – A Punxsutawney teen is facing criminal charges following a high speed pursuit and an eventual crash in Punxsutawney late last week.

Court documents indicate the Punxsutawney-based State Police filed criminal charges against 18-year-old Steven Joseph Schopperth, of Punxsutawney.

According to a criminal complaint, around 7:45 p.m. on March 20, Trooper Stuby of the Punxsutawney-based State Police observed a vehicle with an invalid registration plate traveling down an alleyway behind Sheetz in Punxsutawney. Trooper Stuby also noted the vehicle had an inoperable driver’s side brake light. He then initiated a traffic stop.

According to the complaint, the vehicle immediately accelerated to a high rate of speed and continued traveling east. It allegedly crossed the double yellow center line numerous times and traveled in excess of 90 miles per hour in a posted 40 mile per hour zone.

The vehicle then made an abrupt turn and began traveling north on Graffius Avenue at a high rate of speed, and the pursuit was discontinued after Trooper Stuby’s vehicle struck a deer on Graffius Avenue just south of Highland Park Road.

A short time later, Trooper Stuby was advised of a single-vehicle crash on Highland Park Road. He proceeded to the scene and found the vehicle from the pursuit resting in a driveway.

According to the complaint, evidence at the crash scene indicated the vehicle had been traveling south on Highland Park Road and failed to negotiate a right curve in the roadway, then exited the road, struck several fence posts, and came to a final rest. It sustained severe front-end damage with airbag deployment.

The complaint notes witnesses at the scene indicated they saw a white male driver hit their fence and immediately flee the scene behind their barn, but a search of the area didn’t yield any results.

While checking the vehicle for insurance information, Trooper Stuby observed a yellow plastic eyeglass case containing two glass smoking devices with suspected methamphetamine residue. He also observed a small plastic zip baggie of suspected marijuana in the center console and found a receipt from Aspen Dental issued to a known individual from an appointment on March 16.

Trooper Stuby returned to the Sheetz in Punxsutawney the following day and reviewed the surveillance footage. According to the complaint, he observed the driver of the vehicle entering the store and paying for gas. Trooper Stuby then proceeded to the residence of the known individual from the receipt found in the vehicle. The complaint states the individual’s mother reported she believed “Steven” had taken the vehicle and was the driver doing the pursuit, and the driver was then identified as Steven Joseph Schopperth.

Schopperth was then interviewed at the Punxsutawney-based State Police barracks. According to the complaint, he admitted to taking the vehicle without the owner’s knowledge or consent, and to being the driver of the vehicle at the time of the pursuit and the crash. He reported that after the crash, he fled into the woods and eventually found a ride home. He also admitted that he did not have a valid driver’s license and knew the vehicle was not legal to drive, and he was not authorized to drive it.

Schopperth was arraigned in front of Magisterial District Judge Jacqueline J. Mizerock at 11:20 a.m. on Thursday, March 26, on the following charges:

– Flight To Avoid Apprehension/Trial/Punishment, Felony 3
– Fleeing or Attempting to Elude Officer, Felony 3
– Marijuana-Small Amount Personal Use, Misdemeanor
– Use/Possession Of Drug Paraphernalia, Misdemeanor (two counts)
– Recklessly Endangering Another Person, Misdemeanor 2 (three counts)
– Drive Unregistered Vehicle, Summary
– Driving Without A License, Summary
– Operate Vehicle Without Required Financial Responsibility, Summary
– Fail To Keep Right, Summary
– Disregard Traffic Lane (Single), Summary (two counts)
– Driving at Safe Speed, Summary
– Exceed Max Speed Limit Established By 35 MPH, Summary
– Exceed Max Speed Limit Established By 50 MPH, Summary
– Careless Driving, Summary
– Drive Without Light To Avoid Identity Arrest, Summary
– Reckless Driving, Summary
– Accident Damage To Unattended Vehicle Or Property, Summary
– Fail To Notify Police Of Accident/Damage To Vehicle, Summary
– No Rear Lights, Summary
– Fail to use safety belt – driver and front seat occupant, Summary

He remains free on $10,000.00 unsecured bail.

A preliminary hearing for the case has not yet been scheduled.

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