Police chase ends after suspect’s car catches fire

Posted Nov. 01, 2010, at 9:39 p.m.

BELFAST, Maine — A driver who had a blood alcohol level that was reportedly more than twice the legal limit led Belfast police on a chase early Sunday morning, stopping only when his vehicle caught fire.

Isander Birriel-Lopez, 29, of Swanville came to the attention of the Belfast Police Department at about 1 a.m. Sunday when he allegedly tried to buy alcohol from the Big Apple convenience store but was refused by the clerk, who then called authorities.

Officer Michael Rolerson caught sight of Birriel-Lopez’s 1999 Chevy Blazer when he was traveling on the Route 1 overpass at what appeared to be faster than the speed limit.

Rolerson began chasing the vehicle and then saw smoke suddenly enveloping the Blazer at the U.S. Route 1 and Congress Street intersection, according to police.

“I really thought he crashed,” Rolerson said Monday.

But Birriel-Lopez kept right on going, despite the smoke and the police car’s lights and sirens. Rolerson next saw him on the wrong side of the road by Dos Amigos restaurant in Northport, traveling at 90 mph, according to the officer.

The Blazer finally pulled in to a driveway at Maine Energy, and as Rolerson got Birriel-Lopez out of the vehicle, flames started to appear under the car.

Two other police officers arrived on the scene and were able to use two fire extinguishers to put the fire out. The Northport Fire Department also was called, Rolerson said.

Birriel-Lopez was handcuffed and offered no resistance, the officer said. He was arrested and charged with eight counts: criminal speed, operating without a license, operating an unregistered motor vehicle, failure to sign a uniform summons and complaint, driving to endanger, failure to stop, operating under the influence with a 0.19 percent blood alcohol content and eluding an officer.

Birriel-Lopez was taken to Waldo County Jail in Belfast but has been transferred to Two Bridges Regional Jail in Wiscasset, Rolerson said. He is scheduled to appear at Waldo County Superior Court on Dec. 30.

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