Trooper describes I-81 chase

Brandon Deshawn McClaney

WOODSTOCK – A Washington, D.C., man charged with attempted capital murder of a law enforcement officer and numerous other related felonies had his case certified Tuesday for possible indictment by a grand jury.

The defendant, Brandon Deshawn McClaney, 31, was returned to the Rappahannock-Shenandoah-Warren Regional Jail after a preliminary hearing at which a state trooper described chasing McClaney north and south on Interstate 81 over a stretch of about 30 miles at speeds of 70 mph to 80 mph. The vehicles also sped intermittently along local roads. The chase took place on April 24.

The trooper, John Custer, began the chase after receiving a radio transmission warning to be alert for a car that was taken without the owner’s permission. Custer spotted a car matching the description and tried a traffic stop at the southbound Edinburg exit on Interstate 81. Custer said he was approaching the car on foot when the driver sped away on a local road before returning to I-81.

Custer, his voice choked with emotion at times during his testimony, said that he was soon joined by two other troopers. All three worked to box in McClaney as they barreled along I-81 in the middle of a downpour, Custer said.

“We attempted to contain him,” Custer said. “Mr. McClaney was weaving back and forth between lanes.”

The chase reached an especially desperate moment near Mount Jackson when the troopers and McClaney headed toward a spike strip, a device used to deflate tires, that had been deployed by Shenandoah County Sheriff’s Capt. Wesley Dellinger. Custer said McClaney headed toward Dellinger.

McClaney’s 2011 Mazda CX-7 swerved to avoid the spike strip and forced Dellinger to move out of the way an instant before the vehicles collided, Custer said.

Commonwealth’s Attorney Amanda Wiseley told General District Court Judge Amy Tisinger the Mazda inflicted more than $3,600 damage on the patrol car.

Custer said McClaney’s car, now traveling with a tire damaged by the spike strip, turned away and headed south toward Augusta County where one of the other troopers used a NASCAR-inspired bumping maneuver to bring the defendant to a stop, Custer said.

Dellinger suffered a leg injury while getting out of the way and missed a day of work.

McClaney’s attorney, Assistant Public Defender Peter McDermott, argued that his client was trying to escape from the law enforcement officers but did not intend to injure or kill them.

“They haven’t proved that at all,” McDermott said of the prosecution.

Tisinger said the combination of the length of the chase, the heavy rain, high speed and traffic volume were important factors for her to weigh.

“There’s a ton of people on the interstate,” Tisinger said. “It makes me shiver to be honest with you about what could have happened here.”

Tisinger said McClaney had “all kinds of opportunities to cease and desist,” but continued to flee, despite the obvious danger he was posing.

The charges she certified to the grand jury included attempted capital murder of a law enforcement officer; two counts of attempted malicious injury to a law enforcement officer; two counts of assault on a law enforcement officer; felony leaving the scene of an accident; and vehicle theft.

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