Canadian boy who ran US border in high-speed chase pleads guilty

Posted Nov. 17, 2013, at 10:50 a.m.

FARMINGTON, Maine — A 16-year-old Canadian boy admitted to charges Friday related to running the U.S. border and leading a high-speed chase from Coburn Gore down Route 27 into Kingfield last month.

Zachary Wittke of Eganville, Ontario, also admitted in Juvenile Court to a new felony charge of aggravated assault for ramming a U.S. Border Patrol agent’s vehicle and injuring him.

Judge Nancy Carlson sentenced Wittke to 30 days on the assault charge and 30-day concurrent sentences on felony counts of eluding an officer, passing a roadblock and aggravated criminal mischief, and a misdemeanor charge of unauthorized use of a vehicle.

He was given credit for time served since Oct. 15 when he was taken into custody.

Carlson told Wittke she appreciated him taking responsibility for his action.

“I don’t know what you were thinking. Thank God no one was killed,” she said.

She told him whatever he faces in Canada she hopes that it will help him get his life back on track.

Wittke was turned over to Border Patrol agents to be taken to the border and released to Canadian police. He was to be expelled from the U.S. later in the day, Assistant District Attorney Joshua Robbins said. He is on probation in Canada and has pending charges there, officials previously said.

Wittke’s lawyer, Christopher Berryment of Mexico, told Carlson he explained to Wittke that there would be immigration consequences if he wanted to come back to the U.S.; he could be excluded for life.

Wittke had been held at Mountain View Youth Development Center in Charleston.

If the case went to trial, Robbins said, testimony would have been heard that Border Patrol agents had been alerted by Canadian authorities that there had been someone asking questions, including about where the port of entry into the U.S. was.

Black box and GPS technology were used to determine speeds, and witnesses collaborated what agents and police had said in their investigations, according to testimony.

Testimony would show that the red truck was intercepted at Coburn Gore but ran the border and would not stop for Border Patrol agents. Speeds at that time had reached 89 mph, Robbins said.

An agent who took the lead in the chase had planned to use his vehicle to do a maneuver to stop the speeding truck. The truck stopped at one point and the agent thought the chase was over. The agent unbuckled his seat belt and opened his door and saw the backup lights on the truck come on. He shut his door fearing for his safety, and the truck rammed his vehicle at between 14 to 17 mph, testimony would have shown. It also struck another agent’s vehicle.

The agent whose vehicle was hit first fired six shots through the windshield of his vehicle at the fleeing truck. The agent would also have testified that he received knee, back and shoulder injuries and is still on light duty.

One of those bullets fired was found to be lodged in the driver’s side headrest of the truck, Robbins said. The distance the shots were fired at was 11 feet from the fleeing truck, testimony would show.

Speeds reached 96 mph in that portion of the chase.

A Carrabassett Valley officer would testify that he clocked the truck going 101 mph as it went by the Carrabassett Valley Airport. He was directed to not chase the vehicle by Chief Mark Lopez. No police saw the truck pull on to an all-terrain vehicle trail in Kingfield village. The stolen truck was found on the trail on a tree with its tires still spinning, Robbins said.

State police found discarded clothing at the scene. A trooper would testify that he tried to stop a different truck near New Portland, but it didn’t stop. It ran through roadblocks and over two sets of spike mats and was going about 40 mph on flattened tires and rims, according to testimony.

A state trooper was directed to try to stop the second stolen truck with his cruiser. The truck came to stop at a guardrail and Wittke and his passenger, a 13-year-old girl from Canada, got out of the vehicle and jumped the guardrail and went down a rocky embankment into the Carrabassett River in Kingfield, according to testimony.

Both were injured in the incident. The girl spent several days in a Portland hospital before she was returned to Canada. She was not charged.

 

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