Chesterton Tribune



PCSP: Sheriff's officer hanging on to speeding Jeep averts tragedy

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A Porter County Sheriff’s Police officer may have prevented dozens of casualties on Saturday when--on foot, running alongside an accelerating Jeep with an intoxicated minor behind the wheel--he managed to keep the driver from crashing into a crowd of people waiting for the Valplayso fireworks display to begin, the PCSP said.

Patrolman Paul Czupryn was injured in the process, after falling off the Jeep.

The driver was identified as Spencer T. Sovich, 20, of 210 Mayfield Ave., Valparaiso. He has been charged with operating while intoxicated, criminal recklessness, resisting law enforcement, and minor consumption of alcohol.

According to Czupryn’s report of the incident, at 9:28 p.m. he was working security for the Valparaiso Parks Department at Valplayso--wearing his alternate PCSP motorcycle uniform--when he observed a gray Jeep Cherokee eastbound on Glendale Blvd. take a jog to the south and drive over “a large curb and into a construction site at the playground.”

Czupryn gave chase on foot as the Jeep resumed an easterly heading through a gravel area, he stated in his report. “I ran up to the vehicle and repeatedly yelled ‘Stop! Police! The vehicle continued driving eastbound through the park and was accelerating. I began banging on the driver’s side of the vehicle with my fist and flashlight while screaming orders to ‘Stop!’ and to ‘Put the car in park!’ The vehicle continued to accelerate as I sprinted alongside.”

By this time the driver was traveling along a northeast heading, “toward a large group of over 100 spectators camped on the tree-lawn east of the playground between the sidewalk and Glendale Blvd.,” Czupryn stated. “The driver’s side window was open and I was directly next to the driver while I was running next to his speeding vehicle. He continued to ignore my orders to stop. I opened the door to the vehicle and the driver pushed me back. Just before the vehicle got to the crowd, which was beginning to scatter, I reached in and pulled the steering wheel to the right and aimed the vehicle down the sidewalk eastbound.”

“The majority of people fled north into the street as I attempted to keep the vehicle from going left,” Czupryn continued his report. “We were driving down the sidewalk between the tree-lawn and a construction fence to the south of the sidewalk. I eventually couldn’t hold on any longer and fell from the vehicle.”

Czupryn watched as the Jeep turned left onto southbound Monticello Park Drive and was lost to sight. Because the Jeep’s license plate light wasn’t working, Czupryn stated, he was unable to see the license number.

Czupryn immediately ran to his motorcycle and radioed for assistance, then went searching for the Jeep on Evans Ave., eastbound for a distance, then westbound. Czupryn was approaching Roosevelt Road when he spotted a Jeep with a non-functioning license plate light, pulled even with driver, recognized both him and his front-seat passenger, and ordered him to stop. The driver did not, Czupryn said, so he pulled in behind the Jeep and followed it to the intersection of Roosevelt Road, where a red light boxed it in.

Czupryn dismounted his motorcycle and stated that he was in the process of opening the passenger’s side door when the light turned green and the Jeep “began to roll forward” with the rest of the westbound traffic. “I lunged into the vehicle across the passenger and shut the vehicle off,” “put the car in park, and ordered the driver to put his hands on the steering wheel.”

The driver refused, prompting Czupryn to draw his service weapon and order the driver once again to put his hands on the wheel, he stated.

By that time, however, Valparaiso Police officers had arrived at the scene and succeeded in “forcibly” removing the driver, Czupryn stated.

The driver, identified as Sovich, showed signs of intoxication, Czupryn stated. “I asked Spencer if he had anything to drink prior to our encounter and he advised that he had ‘Quite a bit.’ I asked him exactly how much he had to drink prior to driving and he replied ‘A lot.’ I asked him to be specific and he responded by stating that he was ‘over the limit.’ I asked him to quantify and qualify his alcohol consumption by estimating how many and exactly what he had consumed prior to driving and he replied ‘A lot.’”

Sovich failed several field sobriety tests and registered a blood alcohol content of .20 percent on a blood test administered at Porter Regional Hospital, Czupryn stated.

Sovich’s passenger, Alexandra K. Mendoza, 18, of 52 Carmen Drive in Valparaiso, was charged with minor consumption of alcohol after she registered a B.A.C. of .22 percent on a portable breath test, Czupryn stated.

Both Sovich and Mendoza were transported to Porter County Jail.

Czupryn’s right hand, injured in the fall from the Jeep, subsequently began to swell painfully from a contusion and was braced at the ER, he stated.



Posted 7/6/2015




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