LANCASTER – Criminal charges were filed Wednesday against the man accused of leading officers on a televised high-speed chase Monday from Northridge to Palmdale, where he surrendered after a standoff that lasted more than a half-hour.
Sean Christopher Druschel, 33, pleaded not guilty to one felony count each of fleeing a pursuing peace officer’s motor vehicle while driving recklessly and fleeing a pursuing officer’s motor vehicle and driving against traffic, along with two felony counts each of assault upon a peace officer or firefighter and assault with a deadly weapon.
He is also charged with one misdemeanor count each of driving under the influence of a drug and driving when privilege is suspended or revoked, and two misdemeanor counts of hit-and-run driving resulting in property damage.
The chase began shortly after 5 p.m. Monday, Feb. 23, when police tried to stop the driver of a Ford F-150 pickup truck for reckless driving. He allegedly tried to ram a police car, then got onto the Ronald Reagan (118) Freeway near Chatsworth, going west toward Simi Valley.
California Highway Patrol and Los Angeles Police Department helicopters tracked the truck as it reached reported speeds of 135 mph on the northbound Golden State (5) and Antelope Valley (14) freeways. At times, the suspect drove on the center diver and on the right shoulder.
The truck exited the 14 Freeway on Avenue N and proceeded westbound on the wrong side of the road, failing to stop at red lights, and reaching speeds of 120 mph, according to the CHP.
At one point, the truck spun out of control, and CHP attempted to disable the spinning vehicle by ramming the rear of the truck, CHP officials said. The suspect managed to keep going, and the pursuit continued.
Near the end of the chase, a female passenger was let out of the truck in a gated community. She was detained for questioning but was viewed as a witness, rather than a suspect.
Soon after, the suspect’s truck collided with a car and came to a halt near the intersection of Highland Avenue and Rancho Vista Boulevard. Broadcast footage showed smoke coming from the cab of the truck as authorities waited for the suspect to surrender, which he did around 7 p.m. Monday, Feb. 23,
After pleading not guilty to all charges Wednesday, Druschel was ordered to be held in lieu of $290,000 bail. A preliminary hearing was set for March 9 at the Antelope Valley courthouse to determine if there is enough evidence to require Druschel to stand trial.
[Information via City News Service and a California Highway Patrol report.]
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