Bail set at $25,000 for man who led cops on high-speed chase

  • Homer Police Department Community Jail Officer Rick Pitta brings John Suter into the Homer District Courthouse for s his arraignment on Friday morning, Oct. 7.

A high-speed chase on Thursday afternoon in Homer and Anchor Point began with a drunk-driver report and ended with the suspect coming out of a crashed, stolen Dodge Ram truck holding a half-empty gallon jug of blended Scotch whisky.

At Paul Suter’s arraignment on Friday, Oct. 7, Homer District Court Judge Margaret Murphy set bail at $25,000 cash performance bond and a third-party custodian.

Alaska State Troopers said Paul Suter, 30, sped away from troopers when they tried to stop him in a red Chevrolet sedan at Mile 160 Sterling Highway near Anchor Point. Suter crashed the car, escaped into the woods, stole a truck and then evaded troopers again on Diamond Ridge Road. Homer Police caught up with Suter on West Hill Road and followed him as he sped east, winding up at the Northern Enterprises Boat Yard. There Suter crashed the truck into a shipping container and two 55-gallon drums.

Homer Police Officer Austin McAvoy nabbed Suter as he ran from the truck, and he and HPD Sgt. Ryan Browning cuffed him. Police said Suter tried to break away.

“They made me do it,” Suter said, according to a criminal complaint when police caught him. “Cuff me, please.”

On Friday morning, Homer District Court Judge Margaret Murphy arraigned Suter. As Murphy read the charges, Suter held his head in his hands, at one point sobbing when Murphy said he faced up to 5 years in prison on felony charges. Suter also was wanted on earlier charges of third-degree theft and first-degree criminal trespassing, and on a petition to revoke probation on a previous charge for failure to attend substance abuse counseling.

In all, Suter faces these charges:

• Failure to stop at the direction of a peace officer, two counts, a felony;

• Felony driving under the influence, two counts;

• First-degree vehicle theft, a felony;

• Third-degree assault, two counts, a felony;

• Driving while license revoked, two counts;

• Reckless driving, two counts;

• Resisting arrest.

For an Aug. 27 offense, Suter also faces these charges:

• Third-degree theft, for stealing a generator;

• First-degree criminal trespass;

• Another charge of driving while license revoked.

Suter has prior convictions of felony DUI and his driver’s license is revoked until 2060.

According to a criminal complaint, Trooper Paul Frederick alleged the chase unfolded like this:

• At about 3:05 p.m., a Homer man made a “report every dangerous driver immediately” call of a man in a red Chevrolet speeding and heading north near Mile 171 Sterling Highway at Baycrest Hill.

• At about 3:15 p.m., Frederick saw the driver at Mile 160 Sterling Highway south of Anchor Point. Frederick recognized the car as one driven by Suter and identified the driver as him. He turned around and chased Suter, but lost sight of him on curve. By the time Frederick caught up with Suter, he had crashed the Chevrolet near Sabea Circle.

• Suter then ran into the woods. Sgt. Dan Cox, head of the Anchor Point Post, and other troopers joined Frederick in looking for Suter, but lost him in the thick woods.

This was the second time Suter had run from troopers when they attempted an arrest. On Sept. 22, Frederick tried to catch Suter at a Valleyside Avenue home near Anchor Point, but Suter drove away in a car. Because Frederick thought Suter had a child in the car, he didn’t actively pursue him.

• At about 3:45 p.m., troopers received a report that someone had stolen a white Dodge 2500 Ram truck from a Sabea Circle home. The caller said she saw the truck heading toward Homer.

• At about 3:50 p.m., Court Services Officer Carl Peterson said he saw Suter heading south near Mile 166 Sterling Highway and then turn onto Diamond Ridge Road. Troopers suspected Suter drove more than 100 mph in a 35 mph zone. With Browning driving and McAvoy in the passenger seat, the Homer cops went to Diamond Ridge Road and West Hill Road and set up to stop Suter.

• Browning and McAvoy saw Suter barrel through the stop sign at Diamond Ridge Road and West Hill Road and head east along Westwood Drive. They saw Suter drinking from a gallon jug of alcohol while he drove. Suter continued on an unmaintained section of Westwood to Fireweed Avenue. On Fireweed, the Homer cops slowed when they saw an elderly woman walking a dog.

• Suter headed downhill on East Hill Road. A Homer man later reported that as he drove uphill, he had go into the gravel when Suter drove into his lane.

• Suter then turned east onto East End Road. Another driver later reported as he drove west toward town a driver in a white truck approached him head on. The man said he had to drive up onto the bike path and that the truck missed him by about a foot.

• Browning and McAvoy followed. Suter spun out as he turned onto Kachemak Drive. Suter turned into the Northern Enterprises Boat Yard where he skidded around the gravel lot and commercial fishing boats on cribs. The Dodge crashed into a shipping container and two 55-gallon drums. Firefighters later had to check one burst drum for hazardous material, and put down pads for oily water.

• Suter got out of the wrecked Dodge carrying the whisky jug and ran about 25 yards before McAvoy got him. He and Browning handcuffed him. Frederick arrived at the scene and said Suter told him “he was going to jail forever.” Suter apologized for his actions and said he did the wrong thing.

• Suter bled from the head and police called for medics. Homer Volunteer Fire Department medics responded and treated him for his injuries. Frederick evaluated Suter for drunk driving. He took a preliminary breath test that showed a blood-alcohol level of .247 percent, or three times the legal level of .08 percent. Frederick later got a search warrant to seize and test Suter’s blood. Doctors released Suter that night and police took him to the Homer Jail.

• Troopers ask anyone who might have been endangered during the chase to call them at 235-8239.

Michael Armstrong can be reached at michael.armstrong@homernews.com.

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