Harris Gets State Prison Time for Aggravated Assault by Vehicle While DUI, Fleeing from Police

CLEARFIELD – A Woodland man accused of aggravated assault by vehicle while driving under the influence in one case and fleeing from police in another was sentenced to state prison Tuesday.

Richard Earl Harris, IV, 21, pleaded guilty to aggravated assault by vehicle while DUI, DUI and a summary charge. President Judge Fredric J. Ammerman sentenced him to two to five years in state prison.

In a second case he pleaded guilty to fleeing or attempting to elude police, aggravated assault, accidents involving injury and unauthorized of a motor vehicle.  For this he was given a concurrent total sentence of six months to two years in state prison.

In a third case, he pleaded guilty to materially false written statement and was given one year concurrent probation.

Prior to sentencing, Harris’s attorney, Curtis Irwin called these “unfortunate cases” and stated Harris had never been in jail before these offenses.

Harris addressed the court saying he was sorry for everything he did and adding he was high on methamphetamine when he committed the crimes.

According to the affidavit of probable cause in the first case, on Aug. 26, 2016 police were called to a crash on Bigler Road in Bradford Township. When officers arrived they spoke with Harris, who was the driver of one of the vehicles.

They described him as having bloodshot eyes and droopy eyelids. He also smelled of alcohol. He admitted he was drinking prior to the crash but refused to take a field sobriety test.

He kept saying he was in trouble and he knew he was going to jail and even asked an officer to take him to jail.

The driver of the other vehicle told police she was driving north on Bigler Road when the Harris vehicle crashed into her. She said she tried to move out of his way, but she did not have enough time because it was traveling at a high rate of speed.

Video footage from the Minit Mart in Bigler showed Harris’ vehicle moving recklessly in the parking lot. The vehicle left the lot at a high speed.

Although the video did not show the crash, a dust cloud could be seen emerging from the crash scene immediately after his vehicle went out of view.

The 71-year-old victim suffered a fractured right wrist and knee, which left her confined to a wheelchair.

A test revealed his blood alcohol content was 0.189 percent.

The criminal complaint in the second case details how Harris fled from police on May 21.  An officer in a stationary vehicle first saw a gray sedan traveling eastbound at a high rate of speed on state Route 879 near Interstate 80 exit 120 around 3:12 a.m. It accelerated as it passed.

The officer followed the vehicle and as it began to turn into the parking lot of Sapp Bros. Truck Stop, the officer activated his lights to initiate a traffic stop.

The vehicle turned left as though it was pulling into a parking space, then made a sharp right turn and accelerated, causing the rear wheels to skid near other parked vehicles.

It then continued to the back of the lot where it paused. When the police car approached, it took another right turn in the same manner before accelerating again and exiting the parking lot at a high rate of speed.

The officer called for back up as he followed the vehicle. Police said it swerved into the oncoming lane several times. As the cars traveled east toward Shawville, the police vehicle lost traction and slid into guardrails. This collision caused a dent and scratches along the entire passenger side of the car, according to the report.

The vehicles continued past the Shawville power plant at a speed of over 100 miles per hour. In Frenchville the vehicle turned left onto Manor Lane, which is over eight miles from the truck stop.

For a moment, the car paused due to a large yellow, metal gate across the dirt roadway but then it accelerated, ramming the gate and breaking it open, police said.

The officer continued to pursue the vehicle as it turned around and came back toward him, forcing him to the right to avoid a collision. The officer then turned his vehicle around and followed the suspect’s vehicle back out Manor Lane and toward SR 879.

This officer contacted a second officer who was close to the scene. The second officer responded that he was now behind the suspect’s vehicle and they were traveling at approximately 124 miles an hour.

This second officer tried to read the registration plate but the vehicle began to weave in and out of the lane as if the driver was losing control. After the second officer applied his car’s brakes, the vehicle did a U-turn.

The police car turned left and began moving toward the guardrails in an attempt to block the road and stop the pursuit. The suspect sped up and struck the passenger side of the second police car.

He then continued forward, scraping the vehicle along the guardrail and the front of the patrol vehicle, damaging the push bar. The vehicle accelerated and exited the roadway on the opposite side where it went over ditch and struck the ground with its undercarriage.

The vehicle came to rest about 4.3 miles from Manor Road. The entire pursuit was approximately 12.7 miles, the officer said.

A state police vehicle now on the scene pulled in behind the suspect’s vehicle. The suspect then backed into the push bar of this vehicle. He got out of the vehicle as the second officer parked behind the state police vehicle.

The suspect then made an attempt to escape on foot but he gave up quickly because two state troopers and the second officer were all ordering him to the ground at gunpoint. After he was taken into custody, he was identified as Harris.

Harris told police it was his girlfriend’s car and they had been fighting. He stated that he took it while she was asleep. When asked why he was fleeing, he stated “because I want to die.”

Due to this statement, he was transported to Penn Highlands Clearfield for a mental evaluation. The officer left him there in the custody of hospital staff. But Harris left the hospital prior to being discharged. He was taken into custody again and transported to the county jail.

The owner of the vehicle told police that Harris had been advised multiple times by both her and her husband that he was not allowed to use the vehicle. She gave police consent to search the vehicle.

The search uncovered baggies of a green vegetable matter, grinders, a glass pipe, a knife, two cell phones, ammunition, a shotgun and a rifle. The victim’s daughter told investigators that the firearms belonged to Harris.

The second officer was treated for a pinched nerve in his back.

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