By Paul Daquilante • Staff Writer • 

Trooper pulls PIT on fleeing suspect

Randy Bryan Cifuentes, 25, was charged with a felony count of attempting to elude a police officer and misdemeanor counts of reckless driving and reckless endangering. Sgt. Brad Hessel of OSP’s McMinnville office gave this account:

Senior Trooper Bridget Taylor was southbound on the Lafayette Highway, en route to Brooks for a training class, when Cifuentes zipped past northbound.

“She was going to turn around and probably just warn him about his speed,” Hessel said. “He accelerated in an attempt to get away from her. She lost him and put out a broadcast.”

Trooper Phil Richardson was already in the area and Trooper Chad Drew left the OSP office on Highway 18 to join him.

Hessel said of Drew: “He saw another violation, and was going to make a stop, when he saw this guy (Cifuentes) make a bad pass around two vehicles at a high rate of speed and almost cause a head-on crash. So he initiated a pursuit.”

With the suspect headed north, followed by Drew, Richardson laid out a spike strip near Stockhoff Road. Cifuentes managed to avoid it, but Drew didn’t.

“It does happen, like it or not,” Hessel said. But he said, “When the tires are spiked, it’s not like they blow out. It’s a controlled deflation.

“Chad still had air in his tires, and just south of Palmer Creek Road, he was able to execute a PIT maneuver. The vehicle spun out and went into a ditch.”

Cifuentes, who escaped injury in the crash, was then taken into custody. Despite the severity of the charges, he was released after undergoing booking at the county jail.

“We switched our release criteria last November,” said Sgt. Jason Mosiman. “Based on an order from Judge (John) Collins, where guidelines provide for someone to be released from custody, that person shall be released, absent overriding circumstances.”

The Virginia Pretrial Risk Assessment Instrument is used to determine if an individual is a candidate for immediate release. The arrestee is scored on a number of factors, including the severity of the charges, any pending charges or previous convictions, any history of failure to appear, acts of violence or substance abuse, length of current residency and employment and education status.

“There is a point system,” Mosiman said. “The final score gives us a number. If the individual falls into a certain category, the booking officer shall release the person.”

Cifuentes had his first court appearance scheduled for 1:40 p.m. today.

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