Hit and run driver nabbed shortly after crashing into utility pole

PHILIP A. HOLMES/Sun-Gazette

Minutes after he fled from a city policewoman in the 600 block of Walnut Street Wednesday night, motorist Earl Taylor crashed the van he was driving at Sixth Avenue and High Street, city police said.

Taylor bailed out of the 2001 Chrysler Voyager and ran east toward Fifth Avenue, police were told.

Additional officers swarmed into the neighborhood and discovered Taylor hiding in some bushes in an alley just north of Fifth and Park avenues about 6:30 p.m. police said.

Taylor began running and refused orders to stop, police said. He was taken into custody after one officer deployed his Taser gun.

The incident began when Taylor, 27, of 646 Cherry St., fled from Patrolwoman Nikita Bonnell after she approached his van in the parking lot of the River Valley Regional YMCA on Walnut Street, police said. The officer had detected “a strong odor of marijuana” coming from the van as it passed her at a high rate of speed near Memorial Avenue and Spruce Street, police said.

The officer caught up with the van as it pulled into a parking space in the YMCA lot, police said.

“While speaking with the driver, I could smell the odor of marijuana within the vehicle. The driver, who stated he had smoked earlier, reached in the back seat and handed me a smoked marijuana joint,” Bonnell said in an affidavit.

“As I reached in the vehicle to take possession of the joint, I told the driver I would be searching the vehicle. While my arm was still inside the vehicle, the driver put the vehicle in reverse and sped through the parking lot,” heading west on High Street at a high rate of speed, Bonnell said.

Minutes later, police received information from a 9-1-1 dispatcher that a van had crashed into a utility pole at Sixth Avenue and that the driver had taken off on foot. It was quickly determined to be the same van that Bonnell had approached in the parking lot, police said.

Upon his capture, Taylor was identified as the driver who had fled from the officer, police said. He had on him a drawstring bag that contained 14 grams of marijuana, police said.

Officers recovered a total of 23.7 grams of marijuana, including 3.6 grams found in the van and an estimated 5.6 grams recovered from Taylor’s “flight path,” the area from the crash to where he was apprehended, police said.

He was taken by ambulance to UPMC Susquehanna Williamsport Regional Medical Center to be treated for any possible injuries he may have suffered either in the crash or from being tasered, police said. Upon being discharged, he was jailed overnight on a probation violation.

Bonnell also was treated at the hospital for arm injuries.

Taylor was arraigned before District Judge Christian Frey late Thursday afternoon on charges of aggravated assault, escape, fleeing police, recklessly endangering, possession with intent to deliver marijuana and driving under the influence of a controlled substance. He was recommitted to the Lycoming County Prison in lieu of $75,000 bail.