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Felony charge filed against motorcyclist

One motorcycle rider is charged with felony eluding a police vehicle after law enforcement chased him at high speeds for nearly 20 miles.

Ryan S. Doherty, 23, of Lakewood, will be arraigned in Clallam County Superior Court on July 29 on the charge, which has an enhancement of endangering people. If found guilty of endangering one or more people, an additional 12 months and one day can be added to his sentence.

Charges have not yet been filed against a second motorcyclist, Spencer S. Phillips, who was injured in a crash that ended the pursuit.

Red light run

The incident started at the U.S. Highway 101 intersection with Carlsborg Road, where a Sequim police officer saw Doherty and Phillips, 22, of Steilacoom, run a red light, according to a police report.

The motorcyclists continued east at high speeds, reaching 105 mph at the River Road overpass and passing up to 15 cars, police said.

The Sequim police officer turned the pursuit over to the Washington State Patrol when a trooper clocked the motorcycles at 138 mph near Gardiner Beach Road. The pursuit ended when Phillips crashed into an oncoming pickup truck. He was airlifted to Harborview Medical Center with leg injuries. No one else was injured and Doherty was found by a Jefferson County Sheriff's deputy about 40 minutes later.

Public endangered

Sequim Police Lt. Sheri Crain said when a pursuit ensues the officer must take into account the dangerousness of the situation. Is it a known felon fleeing or someone who didn't use the turn signal?

"Does the risk of pursuing them outweigh the risks these people are putting in front of the public?" Crain asked. "Clearly they were behaving in a very reckless manner."

After the State Patrol got into position to take over the chase, the Sequim officer backed off the pursuit, she said.

Trooper Krista Hedstrom said the State Patrol was only in pursuit of the motorcycles for two minutes when the chase came to an end in a crash near Discovery Bay.

When deciding whether or not to pursue a fleeing driver, troopers take into account the nature of the offense, time of the day, weather conditions, traffic conditions, geography, familiarity with the area and the actions of the fleeing driver, she said.

Per State Patrol policy, the pursuing trooper notified WSP communications regarding traffic and weather conditions.

At 9:05 p.m. the trooper reported light traffic on Highway 101, only one other car on the road. At 9:06 p.m. the trooper reported wet roads and no traffic. Seconds later, when Phillips attempted an illegal pass and crashed into an oncoming pickup truck, the trooper reported the motorcyclist lost control, Hedstrom said.

"If the motorcyclist had not crashed during the unsafe lane change, there is probably a good chance it would have been terminated after observing the unsafe pass in a curve," she said.

Reach Amanda Winters at awinters@sequimgazette.com.

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