A Ligonier Township man was arraigned Saturday on charges stemming from a police chase along Route 30 in Hempfield and Unity townships Thursday during which he allegedly exceeded 100 mph and intentionally struck three state police vehicles before crashing along Beatty County Road in Unity Township.
Robbie Thomas Saunders, 56, was ejected from his 2005 Dodge Ram 1500 pickup truck in a crash the brought the chase to an abrupt end. He was transported by medical helicopter to a Pittsburgh hospital for treatment following the crash, and was arraigned Saturday after his release from the hospital.
Saunders was charged with attempted homicide of a police officer, three counts of aggravated assault, fleeing or attempting to elude police, six counts of reckless endangerment, criminal mischief and numerous traffic-related offenses.
According to police, the chase began around 8:30 p.m. Thursday on Route 30 West near the Route 982 interchange after Saunders passed a state police vehicle and erratically changed lanes.
Troopers reported Saunders’ truck reached speeds of more than 100 mph during the chase, and at times during the pursuit, Saunders “would aggressively apply his brakes,” in an attempt to cause a crash with the police vehicles pursuing him.
Saunders allegedly made a U-turn when he reached the Old Route 30 intersection in Hempfield Township and headed east on Route 30, and troopers said Saunders pulled over in the Oakley Park Plaza area along Route 30 East, only to crash his truck into a police cruiser after Tpr. Jason Kinger exited the patrol vehicle and began approaching Saunders’ truck.
Saunders then allegedly sped off, continuing east on Route 30 to Beatty County Road. Other troopers joined the pursuit, and Saunders again aggressively applied the brakes in the truck, causing a collision with another police vehicle driven by Tpr. Robert Taylor and forcing a third patrol vehicle driven by Tpr. Ryan Ilich to swerve into the oncoming lane, according to court documents. Saunders then swerved into the third patrol vehicle, losing control of the truck, which traveled up an embankment and rolled over, police said.
Saunders, who police said was not wearing a seat belt, was ejected from the truck in the crash and was seriously injured. Ilich and Taylor provided first aid until emergency medical personnel arrived at the scene, police said.
Magisterial District Judge L. Anthony Bompiani ordered Saunders held in Westmoreland County Prison in lieu of $250,000 bond awaiting a June 16 preliminary hearing.