Marijuana seized following high-speed chase

Published 12:32 pm Sunday, February 4, 2024

LEWISTON WOODVILLE – Three men and one juvenile were taken into custody near here Saturday following a high-speed chase.

A felony amount of marijuana and other items, to include a handgun, were seized from a vehicle following a motor vehicle chase near Lewiston Woodville on Saturday. Contributed Photo

After the chase ended, a probable cause search of the vehicle was conducted resulting in the seizure of firearms and felony amounts of controlled substances, according to Bertie Sheriff Tyrone Ruffin.

The driver of that vehicle, 24-year-old Joel Mendez, faces the most serious charges, to include assault with a deadly weapon after he purposely ran head-on into a vehicle operated by a Bertie County Sheriff’s Deputy. That officer was not injured.

Mendez, who was jailed under a $200,000 bond, was also charged with felony flee to elude arrest, felony possession of marijuana, possession of marijuana with intent to sell or distribute, maintaining a vehicle to store a controlled substance, carrying a concealed weapon, resisting a public officer, failure to heed blue lights and siren, and reckless driving to endanger.

Also arrested were Curtis Francis, age 28, and 21-year-old Zyreke Pugh.

Francis, jailed under a $40,000 bond, is charged with carrying a concealed weapon and possession of a firearm by a felon.

Pugh faces charges of carrying a concealed weapon and resisting a public officer. His bond was set at $10,000.

The juvenile in the vehicle was released to a guardian.

Ruffin said that at approximately 11:14 a.m. on Saturday, BCSO Sgt D. Young attempted to conduct a traffic stop on a vehicle near Lewiston Woodville in reference to a speed limit violation (72 mph in a 55 mph zone). The vehicle failed to stop resulting in a pursuit.

Ruffin added that the vehicle continued traveling towards the Town of Lewiston with speeds reaching over 100 mph. Bertie deputies B. Manning and R. Gaskins were in the area and were able to assist with the vehicle pursuit.

The suspect vehicle led deputies onto Vance Lane. Once at its dead end, the suspect vehicle made a U-turn and began traveling back towards deputies.

Ruffin noted that the suspect vehicle then struck Deputy Gaskins’s patrol vehicle head on. The suspect vehicle then proceeded on for approximately 500 feet before coming to a stop. At that time the four occupants exited the suspect vehicle.

One individual was immediately taken into custody by Sgt. Young while the other three continued fleeing on foot behind a residence.

Ruffin said that Deputy Gaskins was able to exit his patrol vehicle and pursue the three suspects on foot. Meanwhile, Deputy Manning cleared the vehicle and secured the suspect that Sgt. Young had in custody. Young then assisted Deputy Gaskins with the foot pursuit.

Gaskins was able to catch up to the suspects several hundred feet into the woods. The suspects were next to several large downed trees. Ruffin said Gaskins then drew his service weapon giving commands while approaching the suspects.

“Deputy Gaskins then lost his footing while approaching the suspects in the dense foliage, uneven terrain and underbrush,” Ruffin said. “Deputy Gaskins firearm was discharged. No officers, suspects or property were struck by the gunfire.”

The suspects continued through the wooded area approaching a residence near Jack Branch Road and Thompson Drive.

At that point, Ruffin said a perimeter was quickly established. Windsor Police Sgt. J. Thomas and Officer W. Padgette both assisted Sgt. Young clearing the residence adjacent to the wooded area. Two of the suspects were located behind the residence and taken into custody without incident.

Several assisting agencies provided the use of their K-9s. Ahoskie Police K9 handler J. Baker and K9 Vanek, along with Lt, S. White, took the fourth suspect into custody in the wooded area in which the suspects fled.

“I thank the incredible show of support from surrounding agencies today,” Ruffin stated. “Without hesitation these agencies came to our aid, ready to assist anyway needed.” The following agencies assisted in the locating and apprehension of the suspects: Bertie County 911 Communications, Windsor Police Department, Hertford County Sheriff’s Office, Northampton County Sheriff’s Office, Martin County Sheriff’s Office, Halifax County Sheriff’s Office, Ahoskie Police Department, North Carolina State Highway Patrol, and North Carolina Wildlife Officers.