Whitesburg KY
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Chase ends after shots are fired at pickup truck

An attempted traffic stop for an expired license plate turned into a four-mile police chase that ended after the Whitesburg Police Chief shot the pickup truck as it drove toward him, police said.

No one was injured in the incident, but the driver was arrested and charged with 13 criminal counts related to the chase, including firstdegree wanton endangerment of a police officer, trafficking in controlled substances, and possession of a handgun by a convicted felon. He is in the Letcher County Jail in lieu of a $100,000 cash bond.

The passenger was charged with four counts of tampering with physical evidence after officers found methamphetamine and a handgun in the ditch where a state police trooper said he saw items being thrown from the vehicle.

According to the citation, the chase began when Kentucky State Police Trooper Jason Bates observed a Ford Ranger pickup truck with an expired license plate on KY 15 in West Whitesburg. Bates attempted to pull the truck over near Taco Bell, and the driver accelerated, according to the citation.

Chief Tyrone Fields said he was in front of Wendy’s when KSP dispatch called for assistance, and said the truck was turning on KY 931 South. He joined the chase.

According to the citation,

Bates chased the truck along KY 931 and 588 as it accelerated to about 70 miles per hour on the narrow, two-lane road and someone threw what he said appeared to be a gun and plastic bags from the passenger side window. The chase continued until the truck turned on The Farm Road at UZ. Bates wrote in his citation that he saw Fields’s cruiser behind him at that point.

Fields said when the truck turned on a gravel road near UZ, he apparently didn’t know it was a driveway with only one house.

“I think he probably thought it would lead to a strip job,” Fields said.

Instead, the road ended at the home, and Fields said the driver steered the truck into a field near the garage with Bates behind him in his cruiser. Fields blocked the road and got out of his car, expecting the driver to get out of his truck and flee on foot.

“The guy made a u-turn and shot the fuel to it and came right toward me,” Fields said. “I thought he was going to run me over.”

Fields said he fired three shots at the truck as he got out of the way, striking it in the side and the rear tire, causing the driver to stop his vehicle. The citation said the driver, John Asher, 30, of Pikeville, got out the truck and “went to the ground,” but refused to give Bates his hands. After gaining control of him and handcuffing him, Bates said officers found $759 in cash in Asher’s right pants pocket, and a bag containing scales and plastic bags on the passenger-side floorboard. Officers found approximately two ounces of a substance thought to be methamphetamine in a ditch where Bates said he saw it thrown from the vehicle, and found a handgun at another location in the ditch, also where Bates said he had seen it thrown.

Police charged Asher with speeding 25 miles per hour over the limit, no or expired registration plates, no or expired registration receipt, first-degree fleeing or evading police, operating a motor vehicle under the influence of alcohol or drugs (first offense), four counts of tampering with physical evidence, first-degree trafficking in a controlled substance (first offense), convicted felon in possession of a handgun, first-degree wanton endangerment of a police officer, failure to wear seatbelts, no operator’s license, possession of drug paraphernalia and resisting arrest.

Melissa Combs, 41, of Hazard, the passenger in the truck, was charged with four counts of tampering with physical evidence.

Both Combs and Asher are still in the Letcher County Jail.

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