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Fairmont man in custody after ramming two police vehicles, injuring officers

A Fairmont man is facing an assortment of charges after police say he intentionally rammed his vehicle into two police cruisers, injuring four officers, during a pursuit through the shopping centers in Granville and Westover on Sunday.

According to the criminal complaint, Granville Officer Zachary Freeburn witnessed a driver, later identified as Tai Douglas Howser, 21, of Fairmont, swerving between lanes while driving south on University Town Centre Drive.  

Once behind the vehicle, the officer witnessed the vehicle continue to swerve across the roadway and received a notice from dispatch to be on the lookout for a possible DUI driver matching the vehicle he was following.

Freeburn said in the complaint that he activated emergency lights and sirens in an attempt to stop the vehicle, which kept traveling south, continuously changing from the southbound lanes, to the center lane, and into the oncoming lanes.  The officer said Howser reached speeds of 60 mph during the pursuit through the 25-mph zone.

Howser continued across the I-79 overpass into the Westridge development, where officers from the Westover Police Department joined Freeburn in the pursuit.

The chase eventually hit a dead end near the FedEx building on Pitman Road.

In the complaint, Freeburn stated “I got out of my vehicle and began approaching, giving him commands at gunpoint, when I observed the wheels of the vehicle point toward me.”

Freeburn said he had to step out of the way of Howser’s vehicle as he allegedly “intentionally drove his vehicle into a Westover police car head on, causing injury to Westover Officers Winston Walcott and Zachary Fecsko.

Star City Police then joined in the pursuit, which continued as Howser fled down Lawless Road onto Martin Hollow Road. 

Once on Martin Hollow Road, police allege Howser “intentionally rammed his vehicle into the back of a different Westover police car,” causing injury to two more Westover Officers, Andrew Cather and Justice Carver.

The chase continued with Howser going back toward FedEx, where police tried to block him.

“He sped up directly at Officers Cather and Carver again, nearly striking them,” the complaint said.

Freeburn’s report said Howser continued leading the chase back into the Westridge development and back onto University Town Centre Drive, allegedly weaving in and out of lanes passing several vehicles, while reaching speeds of 50 mph in the 25-mph zone.

According to the complaint, once traffic was cleared from the roadway, Westover officers were able to stop the vehicle using a pursuit intervention technique, or PIT, and Howser was taken into custody.  

A PIT involves an officer pulling alongside the suspect’s vehicle and gently tapping the back quarter panel with the front bumper of the cruiser, causing the fleeing vehicle to spin out and stall.

Freeburn reported when Howser was taken into custody he had a strong odor of alcohol emitting from his breath, his speech was extremely slurred, and had glassed-over eyes.

During the pursuit, Howser allegedly called MECCA 911 and told them “he was not going in for this, was not stopping, and it was too late at that point,” which police say shows he was intentionally striking police vehicles to injure and disable police officers from being able to capture him.

By the end of the pursuit Howser had allegedly rammed two separate police cars, one of which was taken out of the pursuit due to the amount of damage, and caused injury to four officers, each of whom reported being in physical pain.  All of the officers had to be admitted to J.W. Ruby Memorial Hospital.

Westover Police Chief Joe Adams said the officers were pretty “stoved up” but received excellent treatment at the hospital and have all been cleared to return to service.

According to Adams, damages to the two cruisers that were struck by Howser is estimated to be about $4,800 on one and $3,700 on the other.

“We are thankful for the cooperation between law enforcement agencies that worked together to resolve the issue and bring Howser into custody,” Adams said.

Howser is facing multiple charges including destruction of property valued at more than $2,500, fleeing with reckless indifference, fleeing in a vehicle while under the influence, four counts fleeing in a vehicle causing bodily injury, and four counts of malicious assault on a law enforcement officer.

He is currently being held without bond at North Central Regional Jail.

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