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High-speed pursuit ends in crash, arrest
A Corning police sergeant drove off-road through plowed fields as he pursued a suspected drunken driver around 1:20 p.m. Monday.
Corning police received a call from a Taco Bell employee stating a customer who appeared intoxicated had just left the fast-food restaurant in a light brown Ford Ranger, providing the license plate and direction of travel, said Sgt. Ralph Schmidt.
Schmidt said he saw the eastbound suspect vehicle traveling on the 1300 block of Solano Street just a few minutes later.
"The driver was driving slower than the normal speed and drifted into another lane traveling in the same direction," Schmidt said.
He attempted to make a traffic stop on the Ranger.
"At first I thought he was going to stop, then all of a sudden he took off and I had to go after him," Schmidt said. Accelerating at speeds of 40-45 mph, the pursuit went south on Second Street to Fig Lane where the driver, later identified as Jeffrey Eugene Potter, 61, of Vina, went through the stop sign onto Kirkwood Road without stopping, the sergeant reported.
Reaching speeds of 70-80 mph down Kirkwood Road, Schmidt said Potter ran the stop sign at South Avenue, narrowly missing another vehicle.
Still on Kirkwood Road, the southbound pursuit reached 100 mph until the truck approached the S curves near Kirkwood Elementary School, Schmidt said.
"If he kept going through the curves towards the school, I was going to disengage the pursuit for the safety of the students," Schmidt said.
Just before the curves, Schmidt reported Potter slowed and went eastbound into some dirt fields where he continued through the fields and behind residences and back roads.
"As he approached a steep embankment, he tried to slow and make a turn at the same time," Schmidt said. "He wasn't able to avoid the drop and rolled his pickup down the embankment, landing on the passenger side of the Ranger."
Schmidt stopped his patrol sports utility vehicle a few feet west of the embankment as the 5.9-mile pursuit came to an end.
Schmidt held Potter at gunpoint until additional officers arrived and removed the driver from the vehicle.
After being seen by rescue personnel, the California Highway Patrol arrested Potter and transported him to St. Elizabeth Community Hospital where he was medically cleared and underwent a blood test.
Potter was booked into the Tehama County Jail on suspicion of driving under the influence. Bail was set at $5,000.
The Corning Police Department is requesting an additional charge of evading a peace officer with the Tehama County District Attorney's Office.