PARIS – A lot could happen in 17 minutes.

And enough did Wednesday so that 20-year-old James Knightly of Bryant Pond ended up in the Oxford County Jail. He was charged with five vehicular-related counts from a chase where speeds neared 100 miles per hour and a police chief was nearly run over. The chase covered about 28 miles.

It began when Oxford County Sheriff’s Department Deputy Brian Landis tried to stop Knightly on High Street in West Paris for having no front license plate.

Instead of pulling his black Ford Ranger pickup over, Knightly accelerated.

Landis called the Oxford County Regional Communications Center in Paris immediately when he started the pursuit, in accordance with department policy.

Dispatcher Steve Kierstead issued a “signal 1,000,” which Emergency Management Director Dan Schorr said means no traffic was allowed on the air except that related to the call in progress.

“A chase is always a dangerous situation,” Landis said. “The safety of members of the community and everybody involved in the pursuit is at stake.”

“Luckily no one was hurt,” he said.

Landis said Knightly reached speeds of 90 miles per hour on the two-lane, town-maintained road while driving toward Paris.

Kierstead began giving out the location and approximate speed of the hunters and hunted in the chase every 30 seconds. Schorr said this information is given out so other law enforcement officers could track the events and possibly offer assistance during the chase.

Meanwhile, Knightly slid sideways and nearly went off the road when he tried to negotiate a tight turn near the railroad tracks by the horse farm on High Street, according to Landis.

Paris police became involved and put spike mats down at Route 26 and High Street, but Knightly went around them and headed north on Route 26.

Oxford County Deputy Sgt. Chris Wainwright set out spike mats at the Mallard Mart on Route 26 in West Paris. Landis said Knightly avoided those by dropping his speed to about 50 miles per hour and going into a ditch to go around them.

Landis followed Knightly closely. He was followed by Oxford police Sgt. Theron Bickford, who was nearby when the chase started and was helping the deputy.

Bickford was the radio man.

“Bickford gave reports so Landis didn’t have to take his hands off the steering wheel,” Schorr said. “Steve continually asked for landmarks and locations because other officers were listening in.”

Bethel Police Chief Darren M. Tripp was heading south on Route 26 to see if he could help.

Schorr said two Maine State Police troopers were heading to the general vicinity, a Norway officer positioned himself on the Greenwood Road and Rumford police had been alerted in case Knightly decided to turn onto Route 232.

The dispatch crew in the communications center was as busy as the police were.

“You heard Steve on the radio, but all three dispatchers on duty were involved,” Schorr said. “They were on the phones to other police trying to help Kierstead so he could pay attention to radio. It was teamwork.”

Meanwhile, Knightly headed toward Tripp.

Tripp set out spike mats at the bottom of Merrifield Hill, just at the edge of Bryant Pond village.

Knightly avoided the mats and pulled into a ditch in which the police chief was standing.

Tripp had to dive out of the way and injured his knee in the process.

Landis said Knightly continued north and then turned on Church Street, taking it to Old County Road.

“His speed would fluctuate up and down,” Landis said.

Knightly’s truck died after he pulled onto Richardson Hollow Road. Landis didn’t know why and called it “unknown mechanical failure.”

“Mr. Knightly bailed from the vehicle and I gave chase into the woods,” said the 28-year-old Landis. “I enjoy running and that didn’t help him out a bit.”

Landis said Knighlty lasted for about 800 feet, heard closing footsteps and then gave it up.

Late in the afternoon, Landis said he was still working on his police report.

Knightly was booked in Oxford County Jail on charges of operating after suspension, eluding, failure to stop, two counts of passing a police roadblock and violation of probation.

“There probably might be a few more charges, but I still have to compile everything,” Landis said.

There was also a crash.

“Mr. Knightly’s vehicle was in neutral and it rolled into mine after I started chasing him,” Landis said. “There’s a $1,000 plus in damages.”


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