WALLA WALLA -- A man pleaded innocent Monday afternoon in Superior Court to leading a College Place police officer on a chase into Oregon in March of last year.
Virgil D. O'Neel is scheduled for trial July 19 on charges of attempting to elude a pursuing police vehicle and third-degree driving while license suspended.
Police said the pursuit began just after 5 p.m. March 9, 2009, when the officer tried to pull over a black Mazda pickup that O'Neel was driving in the 1700 block of South College Avenue. The vehicle reportedly had expired license plates.
O'Neel allegedly didn't stop, went south on state Route 125 and onto the Old Milton Highway where he passed several vehicles in a no-passing area and accelerated to at least 80 mph in the 40-mph zone. The Mazda nearly collided with another vehicle by blowing through the four-way stop at Stateline Road, then turned onto Ballou and Winesap roads, according to a police report filed in court.
Officials said the pickup was found parked in grass off Winesap. With the help of sheriff's deputies, O'Neel was apprehended trying to hide in a van parked off Ballou.
O'Neel, 48, reportedly was wanted on a warrant from the Washington State Department of Corrections and told the police officer that's why he ran. "He stated that it was stupid to run, and he was sorry that he caused many dangerous situations," according to the police report.
O'Neel -- who reportedly lived in Milton-Freewater at the time of the alleged chase, but now lists an address in Mattawa, Wash. -- was jailed in Oregon after his arrest. He was charged in Walla Walla County last June, but his whereabouts weren't known at the time.
He was located and booked into the County Jail this month, but has been released on bail.
Terry McConn can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or 526-8319.