CARLISLE TWP. — A harrowing, high-speed police chase and foot pursuit tore through a city, two townships and almost a mile of a bean field Thursday evening before an Elyria man was caught and charged with his sixth DUI.
Michael Spreng, 44, of Elyria, also was charged with felony fleeing and eluding, failure to yield to oncoming traffic, passing on a double-yellow line, resisting arrest and open container, Ohio Highway Patrol Trooper Christopher Aussie said.
Spreng also could be charged with attempted vehicular assault because he nearly plowed through customers at an Oberlin ice cream store in addition to unauthorized use of a motor vehicle because he took his wife’s Toyota 4Runner without permission, Aussie said.
The car chase started shortly before 8 p.m., but by the time it was all said and done — with a foot pursuit through the field and a K-9 search of some woods — it was after 9:30 p.m. and officers from six departments were involved.
“We went all over the place,” Aussie said, shortly after Spreng was caught in the woods between Whitehead and LaGrange roads in Carlisle Township.
The incident began at state Route 58 and U.S. Route 20 when Aussie saw Spreng headed east on Route 20 in the Toyota SUV pass two cars and a tractor-trailer in a no-passing zone.
Aussie said he immediately activated his overhead lights and started after the Toyota, but it pulled into the parking lot of Dairy Twist ice cream store on Route 20. But Spreng didn’t stop there — he simply turned the vehicle around, pulled out and took off, Aussie said.
“The place was jam-packed with people running out of the way,” Aussie said. “I went into the second driveway and turned around, and he took off.”
Dairy Twist manager Rebecca Myers said she only caught the tail end of the incident in the parking lot, but she did see at least one motorist in the parking lot trying to block the SUV.
“It was a big commotion,” Myers said, adding that she was glad none of the customers was hit.
Aussie said he began chasing Spreng’s SUV as it again headed east on U.S. Route 20 before exiting at state Route 511 and turning west onto Oberlin-Elyria Road.
Spreng turned onto Parsons Road, and then onto Nickelplate Diagonal Road while trying to elude Aussie — traveling as fast as 90 mph at some points and veering erratically, Aussie said.
Aussie said Spreng traveled along Biggs and Whitehead roads, tearing a stop sign from the ground when he struck it on Whitehead Road, Aussie said.
The chase looped around and when he was nearly back to Nickelplate Diagonal Road, Spreng sent his SUV off the right side of the road and started traveling west through a bean field, Aussie said.
Aussie and a second trooper, Lance Deshuk, followed after a brief deliberation of whether their patrol cars could pass through the field. As they followed, Spreng ditched the SUV and headed into the woods, but not before grabbing two cans of beer from the vehicle to take on the run, Aussie said.
Sheriff’s deputies, Metro Parks rangers and officers from North Ridgeville, Oberlin and LaGrange all showed up to help in the foot chase, which weaved through a series of deer paths, Aussie said.
At one point in the chase, officers reported hearing gunshots, prompting four off-duty sheriff’s deputies — all of whom heard the chase on police scanners — to make their way to the scene.
“We’re already undermanned,” one of the off-duty deputies said. “We aren’t leaving our guys out here without help.”
As it were, the gunshots were unrelated — they were fired by a farmer in the area. Spreng finally was caught after North Ridgeville brought its police dog to the scene to track Spreng.
“There’s a guy that lost six (cows) in those woods before, and it was weeks before he could find them,” said one farmer watching the melee. But 25 minutes later, the dog had cornered Spreng.
“That dog is probably the best tracking dog I’ve ever seen,” Aussie said. “(Spreng) knew he couldn’t outrun it. He just gave up.”
In addition to the two beers found in a bag he was carrying, troopers also seized a 12-inch knife and two smaller knives from Spreng when he was arrested, Aussie said.
The Toyota SUV contained a cooler full of beer and was littered with empty beer cans. Spring has been arrested on drunken driving charges five previous times since 1994, and the arrest Thursday was his third for drunken driving since 2001, Aussie said.
Contact Shawn Foucher at 329-7197 or firstname.lastname@example.org.