SAYRE — A Sayre man is facing several charges after leading police on a high speed chase throughout the Valley and into other parts of Bradford County on Thursday.
The chase involved the suspect, 26-year-old Patrick Michael Firestine, slamming his SUV into two patrols cars, driving his vehicle through multiple fences as he damaged a blueberry farm, and then being unresponsive as police took him into custody.
Shortly before the chase began, Sayre police learned late Wednesday that Athens Borough officers were searching for Firestine, who was wanted for felony domestic violence crimes and a state parole warrant.
Just after midnight Thursday, Athens Borough police said Firestine intentionally rammed a woman’s car on South Main Street while a 14-month-old boy was inside, then drove over the vehicle’s hood, yelled a threat out of the window, and then sped away from the scene.
Sayre police ended up finding Firestine’s GMC Terrain parked at an East Lockhart Street home in the borough and could see someone leaning inside of the vehicle. As they turned around, Firestine started driving away, rolling through stop signs and not using a turn signal.
Police tried to stop Firestine near Riverfront Park but he continued on, and sped up after reaching Athens Borough. He blew through the Walnut Street and North Main Street intersection at around 60 miles per hour and hit speeds of around 100 miles per hour while leading police past Walmart in Athens Township.
In South Waverly, Firestine struck the rear driver’s side of a patrol vehicle that was on Division Street as he was heading south on Murray Street. Shortly after, Firestine swerved his SUV into another patrol vehicle that ended up to the right of him as he approached Pitney Street.
Firestine made his way back to Elmira Street, again reaching 100 miles per hour before leading police through various borough and township roads, north in the southbound lane of Route 220, and up Mile Lane Road where Firestine crashed through a fence at Blueberry Mountain Farm, damaged farm equipment as he made his way across some of the field, and broke through two more fences before getting on Mink Ranch Road.
The pursuit continued to Berwick Turnpike and then to Springfield Road, where Firestine attempted to swerve at another patrol vehicle. With his vehicle having sustained multiple damages, Firestine stopped on Peas Hill Road in Smithfield Township.
Firestine initially resisted arrest, but then became unresponsive after three officers placed him into handcuffs. Police said his eyelids were shuttering and he was sweating profusely. Greater Valley EMS arrived on scene and discovered that Firestine has a 105 pulse, which police said indicated methamphetamine use. He continued to be unresponsive and sweaty for some time after the incident.
Firestine was charged with three counts of felony aggravated assault, felony fleeing or attempting to elude officer, misdemeanor driving under the influence of a controlled substance, seven counts of misdemeanor recklessly endangering another person, misdemeanor resist arrest, summary driving while operating privilege is suspended or revoked, summary reckless driving, and summary careless driving.
In relation to the initial Athens Borough incident, Firestine was charged with two counts of felony aggravated assault, two counts of misdemeanor recklessly endangering another person, misdemeanor terroristic threats with intent to terrorize another, misdemeanor accident involving damage attended vehicle/property, and summary driving while operating privilege is suspended or revoked.
He was sent to the Bradford County Correctional Facility on $175,000 combined bail for both incidents. Preliminary hearings are scheduled for Aug. 18.
SAYRE — A Sayre man is facing more than 200 charges involving the sexual assault of an underage girl.
Jeffrey Post, 43, has been charged with 34 counts each of statutory sexual assault, involuntary deviate sexual intercourse and unlawful contact with minor (sexual offenses), all of which are first-degree felonies.
Post is also facing 34 counts of aggravated indecent assault, a second-degree felony; 35 counts of corruption of minors, a third-degree felony; and 34 counts of indecent assault of a person less than 16-years-old, a second-degree misdemeanor.
Sayre Borough Police began an investigation when they were contacted by Children and Youth Services about an underage girl receiving “inappropriate text messages.”
Post was sent to Bradford County Correctional Facility on $100,000 bail, but he has since posted bail. A preliminary hearing is set for Aug. 18.
As U.S. Rep. Fred Keller (R-12) took to the phone and livestream Thursday for a virtual COVID-19 town hall, many who were able to get through with questions wanted to know about the help that has come from the federal government and what the future might hold.
A restaurant owner from Sunbury inquired about what was next with the paycheck protection program, especially as she struggles to make ends meet with the state’s updated orders limiting indoor dining capacity to 25%.
Keller said discussions are currently taking place in Congress about how best to help the hardest-hit business, which include a reduction in the revenue loss threshold and liability reform to protect these businesses.
Keller called the first PPP program a success, which averaged distributions of $103,000 to help many small businesses.
“I’m hopeful we can get something done,” said Keller.
Keller said discussions are also ongoing about the future of the unemployment supplement that has provided an extra $600 per month to those out of work, but expires today.
When it came to the $1,200 federal stimulus checks distributed earlier in the pandemic, one caller, identified as Jack from Bradford County, wondered why the federal government was “just throwing money at this problem,” adding that he believed the government was spending the money irresponsibly.
“I have a neighbor whose deceased father — he’s been deceased two years — got a check,” he said. “My wife and I who have not lost any of our income in this process got a check. The in-laws who are on Social Security income and lost no income from their normal (level) got a check.”
Although Keller noted that these stimulus payments were scaled back starting with those who made at least $75,000 a year, he believed the final version of the legislation should have been better targeted to those more in need.
“At the beginning (of the COVID-19 pandemic) Congress didn’t have a lot of time to get things done. We did everything where we could get the consensus of the members of Congress to get it done,” Keller explained. “We’re at another point now.”
As debates over the next stimulus continue, Keller said he’s pushing for measures that can help spur economic growth and get people back to work instead of placing additional debt on the shoulders of future generations, while also making sure previous allocations are being properly utilized.
“I’m more in favor of getting rid of some regulation and doing more things so businesses can reopen so that people have money, not just one time, but reoccurring revenue at a job,” he said.
Not one state has spent the entirety of their Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security Act funding yet, Keller noted. In Pennsylvania, $1.3 billion of the $3.9 billion the state was allocated remains unspent.
“This money, already allocated, can help reopen the economy and help students go back to school in the fall,” he said.
For all states, he said this money should be fully utilized before Congress spends trillions of dollars more.
Returning to school
Another caller, identified as Kim from Bradford County, wanted to know Keller’s thoughts about kids going back to school.
Keller believed that schools can reopen safely, adding that the Education and Labor Committee — which he serves on — just had a hearing about schools safely reopening last week.
“One thing we look at is the American Academy of Pediatrics says we can do it, and they’ve actually laid out ways that it can be done,” Keller explained. “I think it’s important to make sure kids get back to learning, get back to what we need to be doing because every child deserves an education.”
Around $523 million so that elementary and secondary schools in Pennsylvania can reopen safely, Keller noted.
“I think we can do it,” he said.
Implementation of statewide closures
Keller shared some criticism about Wolf’s response to the COVID-19 pandemic in some areas, including the delayed reopening of some counties where there were few cases.
The Department of Health had based its phased reopening not only based on the number of cases in a county, but also the county’s proximity to other counties with more cases and access to health care, among other considerations.
“And now putting a one-size-fits-all mandate across the commonwealth when just over 40% of the cases are out of two counties (Allegheny and Philadelphia),” Keller said, regarding the limitations placed against businesses that restricted alcohol from being served unless it is with a meal, closed bars that couldn’t serve food, and reduced the maximum capacity of dining establishments to 25%. “What can be done about that? That’s why I’m very apprehensive of giving more money to the state, because I look at it as Gov. Wolf is going to use that as a political weapon against the citizens of the commonwealth.”
These criticisms were sparked by a question regarding Keller’s response to Wolf withholding $13 million in CARES Act funding from Lebanon County after two of the three county commissioners voted to reopen the county without state approval.
Another caller was focused on the legality of Pennsylvania’s mask mandate, which Keller said is within the power of the governor under an emergency declaration, and that mask wearing has also been promoted by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
However, he added, “I’m not sure what the penalties would be or how the governor plans on enforcing it.”
Although opinions can vary about the wearing of masks, Keller urged people to be respectful.
“My practice is I always have a mask with me. If people would like me to wear the mask, I wear the mask,” Keller said. “If that’s the policy if I go into a store or am at an event, I’m respectful and put the mask on. We all need to be looking at one another, regardless of what our feeling is, and make sure we are treating each other with respect.”