Driver who led police on high-speed chase on I-40 hospitalized

tmcdonald@newsobserver.comFebruary 14, 2012 

— Police say the driver of a car who had outstanding arrest warrants fled from officers in Southeast Raleigh and Garner this afternoon before he crashed his car on Interstate 40.

A Raleigh police officer was briefly pinned by the fleeing vehicle, but managed to escape injury.

Emergency workers transported the driver, Steve Earl Purnell, 35, to the hospital with injuries that did not appear to be life threatening, said Garner police Sgt. Scott Crawford.

Raleigh police have charged Purnell with assault with a deadly weapon on a law enforcement officer, felony speeding to elude arrest, driving while license revoked and speeding, said spokesman Jim Sughrue.

More charges may be filed by other agencies involved with the incident, Sughrue said.

The N.C. Highway Patrol investigated the single-vehicle crash. Investigating state trooper, J.C. Manning, said the fleeing 1994 Buick was traveling 100 mph when it ran off the eastbound lanes of the interstate, struck a ditch and flipped in the air before coming to a stop along the westbound shoulder of the interstate.

The incident occurred about 1:30 p.m. when a Raleigh police officer spotted a vehicle parked behind a building in the 1900 block of Poole Road, Sughrue said.

The officer conducted a background check and found that the registered owner of the vehicle had outstanding warrants for driving while license revoked and for speeding, Sughrue reported.

Soon afterward, a man entered the vehicle through the driver’s door. The officer approached the man, had a conversation with him and determined that he was the person named in the arrest warrants, Sughrue reported.

When the officer informed the man that he was under arrest, the suspect put the car in reverse and attempted to flee, pinning the officer against the open driver’s side door of the vehicle. The officer was able to free himself and avoid injury, Sughrue reported.

Meanwhile, the suspect fled the scene in the Buick that was spotted a short time later.

Raleigh police initiated a vehicle pursuit in the vicinity of eastbound I-40 and Jones Sausage Road. The chase continued on Jones Sausage before veering onto Garner Road. Garner police joined the chase on Jones Sausage Road. The Buick turned onto U.S. 70 near the White Oak shopping center, then got onto I-40, where it blew a tire, said Crawford, the Garner police spokesman.

The Highway Patrol was alerted about a high speed chase on I-40 just after 1:45 p.m., a patrol dispatcher reported.

Manning said Purnell was not wearing a seat belt at the time of the crash, but managed to escape life-threatening injuries.

"He was conscious," Manning said. "He was scratched up and had some bruises."

McDonald: (919) 829-4533

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