Police cruisers damaged in chase

By Joe Beck

A Woodstock man was charged with two counts of assault on a law enforcement officer and several related offenses after a chase on Interstate 81 Sunday night that authorities say reached speeds of 120 mph.

Timothy Joe Blankenbaker, 35, of 633 W. North St., was ordered held without bond after a hearing Monday in Frederick County General District Court. Other charges included felony eluding of police, reckless driving and driving under a revoked or suspended license.

Sgt. F.L. (Les) Tyler of the Virginia State Police said Blankenbaker crashed his 1997 Toyota coupe in the northbound lane of I-81 at mile marker 310.

“We had three vehicles damaged, no injuries,” Tyler said in describing the chase.

A criminal complaint signed by trooper David R. Gray states that Woodstock officers notified state police after Blankenbaker drove away from the scene of a domestic dispute in town.

Gray said he spotted Blankenbaker’s car on I-81 at the 301-mile marker in Shenandoah County.

Radar clocked Blankenbaker’s speed at 107 mph, according to the complaint.

“I got behind the vehicle, activated my emergency equipment, and the vehicle kept going,” Gray wrote. “I pursued the vehicle at speeds up to approximately 120 mph and was in and out traffic as it passed numerous vehicles on the right and left shoulders.”

Gray said he and two other troopers in their cars executed a rolling roadblock during which Blankenbaker’s car struck Gray’s car in the rear.

“He also sideswiped another trooper in an effort to flee,” Gray wrote, adding that the troopers managed to box in Blankenbaker and bring his car to a halt.

Blankenbaker offered no other resistance as troopers arrested him, according to the complaint.

Gray said he could smell “a strong odor of an alcoholic beverage” on Blankenbaker and in his car.

Blankenbaker refused to take a blood alcohol test and also refused to answer any questions, the complaint states.

Woodstock Police Chief Eric Reiley said in an interview Monday that the incident began with a call around 10:30 p.m. to Woodstock police about a domestic disturbance on the edge of town. Town officers found Blankenbaker in his car when they arrived.

“There was a strong odor of alcoholic beverage,” Reiley said. “They had strong suspicions he was intoxicated. When the officers tried to remove him from his vehicle, that’s when he took off.”

Reiley said his department issued a warning for other officers to be on the lookout for Blankenbaker’s car. A sheriff’s deputy spotted the car on Mount Olive Road but was unable to overtake it, Reiley said.

“I’m happy that none of the officers or any of the motoring public were injured in the incident,” Reiley said.

Contact staff writer Joe Beck at 540-465-5137 ext. 142, or jbeck@nvdaily.com