Three-town pursuit ends in arrest in woods

Staff Writer
Published: 2/26/2020 4:29:06 PM

WARWICK — A Warwick man was arrested after evading police officers from multiple departments both on foot and by car for more than two hours Tuesday night.

The pursuit began with a car chase in Erving, passed through Orange and finished after the man — John McKnight, 39, with addresses in both Greenfield and Warwick — fled on foot in the woods of Warwick. According to Erving Police Chief Christopher Blair, McKnight was arrested on multiple charges, including: failing to stop for officers, resisting arrest, disorderly conduct, disturbing the peace, reckless operation of a motor vehicle, operating a vehicle with a suspended registration and driving without a license in his possession.

Erving officers attempted to stop McKnight, who was driving a van with a suspended registration on the French King Highway, at around 6:45 p.m. He failed to yield to officers’ signals to stop and continued into Orange, where Orange Police assisted.

Blair said he did not know why McKnight chose to flee instead of yielding to officers’ signals to pull over.

“The officers put on their emergency lights and he just took off, traveling eastbound on Route 2,” Blair said.

Blair said the highest speed McKnight reached was 70 mph, and he crossed over the lane lines at multiple points. The vehicle pursuit lasted about 20 minutes.

According to the Warwick Police Chief David Shoemaker, after leading officers along some roads that could be called “cart paths,” McKnight abandoned his vehicle and ran into the wooded area east of Moore’s Pond in Warwick. K-9 units were deployed to track McKnight, while other officers maintained a perimeter of the search area.

“Warwick Police was on the scene for roughly two hours,” Shoemaker said. “What happens in a case like this is we interview the neighbors and some of them pointed out noises in the woods. Plus, we rely on our knowledge of the local area.”

Shoemaker said he and Northfield Police Officer Jeremy Lawler located McKnight on the grounds of a residence roughly a ½-mile from where he “dove out of his car.” They detained McKnight for Erving officers.

Shoemaker noted that pursuing officers needed to exercise caution to avoid rolling an ankle or other injury while searching the woods in the dark of night.

“The dark really makes a huge difference,” he said.

Based on previous knowledge and past interactions with McKnight, police did not consider him to present any danger to the public. While Shoemaker said Erving officers advised the original reasoning for the stop was a suspended vehicle registration, he also did not know why McKnight attempted to flee.

In addition to help from police from Erving, Orange, Warwick and Northfield, the Massachusetts State Police and Franklin County Sheriff’s Office Capt. Scott Waldron assisted with K-9s.

Zack DeLuca can be reached at zdeluca@recorder.com or 413-930-4579.

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