BY STEFANIE JACKSON, Eastern Shore Post
Out-of-towners usually are in a hurry to get to Cape Charles for a relaxing retreat. But the visitor who barreled into town Tuesday, Aug. 29, didn’t come for a vacation — and was in a hurry to leave.
A high-speed chase that began in Eastville ended with the suspect’s sport-utility vehicle crashing into a tree in Cape Charles’ bucolic Central Park while pursued by a town officer’s police car.
The driver jumped from the car, ran off, and evaded a search by dogs, drones, and a cadre of police agencies into the early morning hours.
The suspect then apparently helped himself to another vehicle — its doors were unlocked and its keys inside — and slipped away on one of the two roads out of town, unnoticed by officers.
He is still on the lam. Three passengers were briefly detained by police and released.
In a remarkable series of social media posts, Cape Charles Mayor Adam Charney alerted residents in the wake of the dinnertime incident as the suspect apparently hoofed it around town.
Charney’s Facebook posts, urgent and succinct, were a jolting interruption to the tree-lined resort town’s quaint image of family beach outings and restored Victorian homes.
“Please go inside and lock your doors,” he wrote at around 7 p.m., reporting that a black male in a white tank top “was part of a crime scene in Central Park and he is on foot.”
It was later discovered that the car that skidded into the tree in Central Park had been stolen from New Jersey.
The chase began began around 6:30 p.m. on Tuesday, when Eastville police attempted to stop the black sport-utility vehicle speeding southbound through their jurisdiction at 73 mph in a 55 mph zone.
Eastville police pursued the vehicle after it failed to stop. Cape Charles police were notified as the vehicle approached Stone Road, leading west into town from U.S. Route 13.
Cape Charles police pursued the SUV as it entered town and continued west on Mason Avenue — the town’s main commercial thoroughfare.
The vehicle turned right on Peach Street and charged into Central Park at its south end.
A Cape Charles police officer used his vehicle to force the SUV into a tree in the park, ending the pursuit.
The police officer, the driver of the SUV, and the SUV’s three passengers were uninjured.
“This officer’s quick reaction very likely saved lives,” stated a Town of Cape Charles press release.
Immediately following the crash, the driver jumped out of the vehicle and dashed away.
A search of the Cape Charles historic district ensued and lasted until the early morning of Wednesday, Aug. 30.
The Cape Charles Police Department was assisted by the Eastville Police Department, the Northampton County and Accomack County sheriffs’ offices, and Virginia State Police.
But it was Charney, the mayor, who won the day with his live posting about the incident on Facebook just before 7 p.m. Tuesday.
Then, about 20 minutes later, Charney reported from the scene that a police dog and drones were being used in the search for the suspect.
“Just to be clear, so that there is no panic setting in, there have been no shootings whatsoever,” he wrote.
At approximately 9 p.m., Charney stated that residents should remain indoors while the search continued, and any unusual activity should be reported to Cape Charles police or 911.
He called it a “manhunt.”
The mayor declined to be interviewed on Wednesday, Aug. 30, while the investigation was ongoing.
Early that morning, a vehicle had been reported stolen in Cape Charles. The vehicle had been left unlocked, with the keys inside.
Police believe the suspect left town in the stolen vehicle.
The Town of Cape Charles notified residents at 8:45 a.m. on Wednesday that the search had ended and they could resume normal activity.
Residents also were advised via press release not to share unverified information, and anyone who witnessed the incident should report to the Cape Charles police department.