SalemNews.com, Salem, MA

October 5, 2012

Suspect eludes police, then crashes

BY JULIE MANGANIS STAFF WRITER
The Salem News

---- — SALEM — A Salem man found covered in mud after police say he led them on a chase late Wednesday night is being held without bail.

Mitchell Purter’s lawyer, meanwhile, argued that just because Purter was covered in muck near the scene of a crash involving the car police were chasing, at the sea wall, doesn’t mean police actually arrested the right person.

Purter, 32, of 9 Chase St., Salem, pleaded not guilty to charges of driving after license suspension (allegedly for the ninth time), driving to endanger, failing to stop for police, disturbing the peace, speeding and a lights violation, for the broken license plate light that triggered the effort to stop him in the first place just after 11 p.m.

Patrolman David Tucker recognized the car on Prince Street and knew that it was usually driven by Purter, said Lt. Conrad Prosniewski.

But instead of pulling over when the officer turned on his lights, Purter allegedly took off, reaching speeds of around 55 miles an hour in the neighborhood between the Point and Salem State University.

A sergeant called off the chase but officers continued looking for Purter. Then, said Prosniewski, they heard a crash, and found the wrecked car at the sea wall on Ocean Avenue.

Shortly after that, they found Purter, covered in muck from low tide, on Willow Avenue, a couple of blocks away. They believe he abandoned the car and ran along the water.

Patrick Regan, the defense lawyer representing Purter, questioned the conclusion of police that they had the right man. He told Judge Robert Brennan that Purter was in the area visiting a friend on Willow Avenue.

The description of the driver offered in the police report is only of a large black man, Regan argued, too vague to conclude that it was his client.

But Brennan said that while Regan may have an argument there that he can use at trial, he found that there was probable cause not only to support the charges but to revoke Purter’s bail in another pending case of driving after license suspension.

A pre-trial hearing is scheduled for Oct. 23.

Courts reporter Julie Manganis can be reached at 978-338-2521, via email at jmanganis@salemnews.com or on Twitter @SNJulieManganis.