Route 202 crash details revealed

AUBURN — An Androscoggin County Sheriff's deputy had arranged a meeting with a man suspected of stealing laptops when the man spotted him and took off in his car.

Press conference
Russ Dillingham/Sun Journal

Androscoggin County Sheriff Guy Desjardins fields questions during a news conference at the Sheriff's Office in Auburn on Tuesday morning. The topic of the conference was last week's chase of Glen Witham by a sheriff's deputy through Greene and into Winthrop, which resulted in an accident on Route 202.

News conference
Russ Dillingham/Sun Journal

Androscoggin County Sheriff Guy P. Desjardins fields questions during a news conference at the Sheriff's Office in Auburn Tuesday morning regarding last week's chase of Glen Witham by the county sheriff's department through Greene and into Winthrop, which resulted in an accident on Route 202.

Glen A. Witham
submitted photo

Glen A. Witham

The suspect from Smithfield ended up crashing his car on Route 202 in Winthrop after a chase by the deputy who was seeking to arrest the man on an outstanding felony warrant.

Deputy Maurice Drouin remains on the job pending an investigation into the crash, Sheriff Guy Desjardins said Tuesday at a news conference at the Androscoggin County building.

The crash triggered three independent investigations, including his office's internal investigation, Desjardins said.

A week before the May 12 accident, Desjardins' office got a tip that Glen A. Witham, 39, had been using fake addresses to buy at least two laptops from local stores. Witham allegedly used the address of a past acquaintance for billing future payments on the computers.

Drouin and Witham had corresponded online, Witham unaware of Drouin's identity. One of the sellers helped authorities track down the computer by tracking software built into it, Desjardins said.

Drouin set up a meeting in Greene with Witham on May 12 to discuss the purchase of an item Witham had posted for sale on Craigslist, an online classified ad site.

“It appears (Witham) had noticed the deputy and the chase ensued,” Desjardins said.

Witham raced down Route 202 into Winthrop in a Dodge Stratus. He avoided spike mats authorities set in his path, then, three miles away, smashed into an SUV driven by 27-year-old Jenna Lawrence of Manchester and flipped off the road. Eight months pregnant, Lawrence escaped without life-threatening injuries, police said.

Witham was hospitalized in critical condition. As of Tuesday, he remained at Central Maine Medical Center, unable to move, Desjardins said.

Witham hasn't been charged in connection with the crash, Desjardins said.

The Kennebec County District Attorney's Office is looking into possible charges.

Witham had failed to show up in court for sentencing on a felony theft charge. He has an extensive criminal history dating back to 1990, Desjardins said. Witham was convicted of “numerous” burglary and theft charges resulting in jail sentences ranging from four years in prison to shorter stints at county jails, the sheriff said.

An arrest warrant was issued on March 22 when he failed to appear to serve a one-year sentence for a conviction on a Class C felony.

Witham has four active protection-from-abuse orders against him involving allegations of domestic violence by four women, Desjardins said.

Witham's driving record includes eight convictions and four suspensions. His license was suspended for failing to file insurance, failing to appear in court and failing to pay child support.

Maine State Police are investigating the May 12 accident, including a reconstruction investigation.

Androscoggin County Capt. Ray Lafrance is overseeing an internal investigation of the department's actions relating to the chase and accident. His investigation will determine whether departmental policies and procedures were followed in undertaking pursuits, creating roadblocks and other actions.

The last time an Androscoggin County Sheriff's deputy was involved in a similar crash likely was in the late 1980s, Desjardins said.

Every police officer who attempts to pull over a vehicle could end up facing the same choice of whether to engage in a pursuit if the driver of the vehicle fails to pull over, Desjardins said. Whether to follow the vehicle depends on a variety of factors, including time of day, road conditions and traffic density, he said.

cwilliams@sunjournal.com

What do you think of this story?

Login to post comments

In order to make comments, you must create a subscription.

In order to comment on SunJournal.com, you must hold a valid subscription allowing access to this website. You must use your real name and include the town in which you live in your SunJournal.com profile. To subscribe or link your existing subscription click here.

Login or create an account here.

Our policy prohibits comments that are:

  • Defamatory, abusive, obscene, racist, or otherwise hateful
  • Excessively foul and/or vulgar
  • Inappropriately sexual
  • Baseless personal attacks or otherwise threatening
  • Contain illegal material, or material that infringes on the rights of others
  • Commercial postings attempting to sell a product/item
If you violate this policy, your comment will be removed and your account may be banned from posting comments.

Advertisement

Comments

Erin Cox's picture

Ummm I believe he will be

Ummm I believe he will be criminally charged for the incident thats where he will be held accountable as would anyone eluding from police officers. You are missing the point. Police all over the country use incidents like this one to create better standard operating procedures, as they should. This accident was preventable both by the criminal and the sheriff involved. Please take some time and question a few people in Law Enforcement and see if their stance is chase down the criminal at all possible points, rather than weigh the safety and lability of themselves and others. Like I said before there is a balance, people need to meet in the middle and stop this being so one sided/blind sided it does nothing positive for the community or for Law Enforcement in general

Erin Cox's picture

No one is saying the deputy

No one is saying the deputy intentionally hurt anyone or saying how undedicated or less of an officer he is. Matter of fact I would give him kudos for doing proactive work in trying to catch a career criminal. Whats being asked is should this pursuit have been called off or not. As I am sure this deputy, being the outstanding law enforcement officer he is, hopefully is questioning this incident to see if there is anything he can learn from it. I'm sure he can tell you stories from being at the academy where they use videos from other officers pursuits to learn and train off from, good and bad pursuits. It is a hard job to be in law enforcement especially when so many second guess every move you make, but a good officer also is constantly looking at his experience and how he can learn from it.

Bob Woodbury's picture

No chase here, tron

DURHAM — A local man was arrested following a head-on collision on Route 136 on Tuesday afternoon.

Paul Bucklin, 25, of Newell Brook Road was charged with operating under the influence and possession of a controlled substance.

Bob Woodbury's picture

Were they being chased?

Head on crash story - "Lewiston Police Sgt. Brian O'Malley said Tuesday night that Taylor Bentley, 10, of Auburn, and Joel M. Frenette, 17, of Lewiston, were transported following the 7:50 a.m. crash at the intersection of Lisbon Street and North Lisbon Road."

Bob Woodbury's picture

Let all the criminals go

Right, tron?

Deborah Berube's picture

Well, I wonder if this excuse

Well, I wonder if this excuse for a car chase is acceptable to the pregnant woman that got hit and was sent to the hospital! They were damn lucky that she didn't die or that she didn't miscarry!

Kevin Murphy's picture

Excuse me meinmaine

I disagree with the sheriff's deputy in this case. If you want to call it bashing go ahead. Just keep that in mind the next time you disagree with someone.
They knew who he was, how to reach him and what he was wanted for. This didn't call for a high speed chase down a busy route in mid afternoon IMO.
I don't believe there is anyone writing here that is suggesting they should let him go. They should have waited for another time. This wasn't some spur of the moment chase. They had time to set up spike mats so it had to have lasted a while. Long enough for clear heads to take over.

Terry Donald's picture

Ridiculous

Officer should be fired for endangering the lives of citizens by pursuing this at high speed. The innocent victim will pay for his idiocy for her entire live while recovering from the injuries received, and who knows what physical problems her unborn child will have to deal with. Of course it will be us, the taxpayers, that bear the cost of the police officers stupidity, and of course an investigation by the state will show that he followed procedure and his actions were well within the law.
WAKE UP MAINE! It's time to start holding the police responsible for their actions, common sense should tell you there was no need for a high speed chase to pursue what was in essence a suspect in a petty theft case.

Erin Cox's picture

I'm going to state this

I'm going to state this again. I've been in law enforcement for over six years now and each department has a different policy when it comes to pursuit and for good reason. I've seen some pursuits in Maine with comments from Tron and other cop bashers that state the chase was uncalled for, such as a recent one involving a DUI. I've also seen police supporters such in this case who will go to all lengths saying police did the right thing. There is a balance to everything and it seems like those lines are getting futher and further apart in EVERYONES eyes. Personally from my experience this prusuit was not warranted once certain speeds were reached, the spike strips failed, and the amount of traffic increased. There is always a time when judgement is needed to say ok we should hold off. There is also a reason for a chain of command. Someone with more authority should have been monitioring the radio, especially given it was a work week in the middle of the day, and had gone on the radio and called the pursuit off at a certain point. You'll find in most states a pit stop, made famous by California police and media helicopters that broadcast chases, are not allowed. They cause serious harm and even death to innocent bystanders. Like I said there is a balance. This is the question I pose to the SunJournal to find out. What is the sheriffs office specific policy on pursuits? Is there on each shift a Sergeant or higher up that makes these calls or is the decision left to the officer. Is the sheriffs office looking at this case to help improve there current policy or do they feel it was justified? I don't like to second guess other officers, because I was not there. What I would like to see is how are they learning from this incident. I also hate to say this but the female in the other car has a perfect law suit on her hand that could create a case precedent for traffic pursuits for every police department in the state.

Jan Bachelder's picture

Missing the point

To all who are bashing the cops, don't you even DARE to dial 911 when you have a problem. Not ONCE. They do their jobs and you knock them. They back off and let a convicted idiot back into the community to do even MORE damage, and you knock them. I'd say its about time for all of you to head right off to cop school. You fricken arm chair quarterbacks make the rest of us who live in the real world nuts. The woman, I will say thankfully, did NOT suffer serious injuries. The BAD guy, there is ONLY ONE in this story, is paying the price for his evil doings. Shut up already.

Heather Costa's picture

Agreed

People need to take responsibility for thier actions. He broke the law and hurt people in the process he should be charged accordingly. The police officer should be commended for doing his job on a daily basis.

 's picture

look first

beleive should be "believe" shouldn't it?

 's picture

For once...

I agree with Tron. This chase should have never happened. It is only by God's grace that that poor woman and her child are not dead. Although this guy sounds like a minor menace to society, the chase turned him into a deadly menace. Very poor judgment on the part of the police.

Advertisement

Stay informed — Get the news delivered for free in your inbox.

I'm interested in ...