The man accused of stealing a Dexter police cruiser while handcuffed last week and leading police on a high-speed chase down rural roads remained in jail Wednesday after making his first court appearance earlier in the day at the Penobscot Judicial Center.
Tyler Tibbetts, 22, of Dexter is charged with two counts of theft by unauthorized taking, two counts of being a felon in possession of a firearm and one count each of escape and eluding an officer.
“This was a very dangerous, very significant high-speed chase,” Marianne Lynch, assistant district attorney for Penobscot County, said Wednesday morning at a press conference at her office. “Mr. Tibbetts reached speeds of 100 mph on rural roads that can be difficult to drive. At one point, he forced another car off the road. Luckily, the car was not damaged and no one was injured.”
The theft charges stem from his alleged use of the cruiser and another vehicle. The gun charges are based on his being in the cruiser with a police-issued AK-15 and a gun found in the bedroom of the home Tibbetts was staying in with his girlfriend, Lynch said.
In his appearance before District Court Judge Gregory Campbell on Wednesday, Tibbetts was not asked to enter pleas because he has not yet been indicted by the Penobscot County grand jury. The grand jury next convenes on May 30.
In addition to the charges lodged Wednesday, Tibbets also could face driving infractions, including charges of speeding and operating after revocation of a license, Lynch said.
Tibbetts was arrested Tuesday, after spending four days at Eastern Maine Medical Center for injuries he suffered in a crash on Friday afternoon in Dover-Foxcroft while fleeing police in a stolen car. After he abandoned the cruiser, Tibbetts allegedly stole the car from a residence, according to Lynch.
The incident that led to the charges began at about 10:30 a.m. Friday when police went to the Dexter home where Tibbetts, his girlfriend and her 3-year-old child allegedly were squatting, Lynch said at the press conference. Police had a warrant for Tibbetts’ arrest because he allegedly violated his probation on a theft charge out of Somerset County.
Tibbetts had been placed under arrest, handcuffed and placed in the backseat of a Dexter police cruiser, she said.
While the officer was attending to Tibbetts’ girlfriend and her toddler, Tibbetts maneuvered his hands to the front of his body, squirmed through an 11-inch by 11-inch window in the cruiser’s backseat partition and sped off, the prosecutor said. Tibbetts later allegedly ditched the police cruiser in Garland.
Hours later, police spotted Tibbetts behind the wheel of another car and chased him until he crashed on Route 15 after hitting spike mats set out by police.
Campbell set bail on the charges stemming from the Dexter incident at $25,000 but ordered that he be held without bail on the motion to revoke probation. The district attorney’s office requested Tibbetts be held on $10,000 cash bail.
“I don’t think $10,000 is enough given the fact of the serious nature of these charges and the fact that he was on probation,” Campbell, a former prosecutor, said in setting bail.
A hearing on the motion to revoke bail will be held June 7 in Bangor.
Tibbetts is next due in court on July 3 in Bangor. He also is due in court in Dover-Foxcroft next month.
Tibbetts has a significant criminal history, including convictions for aggravated assault, aggravated forgery, aggravated criminal mischief, driving infractions and several failures to appear for court dates, according to Lynch. The longest time he’s been incarcerated is seven months in the Penobscot County Jail, she said.
If convicted of the most serious charges for theft of the vehicles, Tibbetts faces up to 10 years in prison and a fine of up to $20,000. He also could face additional jail time if his probation is revoked.
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