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Man in custody after leading police on pursuit, striking 2 police cars with 3 children in his car

Pursuit Newburgh crash scene 2.jpg
Pursuit Newburgh crash scene.jpg
Posted at 10:28 AM, Feb 17, 2021
and last updated 2021-02-17 19:43:09-05

CUYAHOGA COUNTY, Ohio — A 31-year-old man was taken into custody after striking two police cruisers while leading officers on a pursuit with three young children in the backseat early Wednesday morning. The pursuit, which spanned two counties and collectively lasted more than a half hour, ended when law enforcement from multiple departments surrounded the vehicle on Harvard Ave., just east of I-77.

Just after midnight Wednesday, a Macedonia police officer attempted to stop an SUV driven by James D. Avery Jr., 31, of Cleveland near the intersection of Highland and Chamberlain Road. Macedonia police said the officer attempted to stop Avery for speeding.

According to dashboard camera video on the police cruiser, the driver of the SUV stopped at the intersection before the officer commanded him to turn off the ignition while he waited for additional officers to arrive. Avery then allegedly sped off.

About a minute later, the driver of the SUV tries to make a U-turn to head back in the opposite direction. In an attempt to end the pursuit, the officer appears to try to cut off the driver's escape.

"At that point, the vehicle struck the front of our cruiser," said Macedonia police detective Dan Matejka. "It looked like the passenger was trying to tell the driver to stop the vehicle, stop doing all this. At that point, after being instructed to get out of the vehicle and turn it off, the driver was able to make his way free."

Det. Matejka said unbeknownst to the pursuing officer at the time, three young children were in the back seat of the SUV. The children cannot be seen in the dashcam video, partly because the SUV's back driver's side window was covered in plastic wrap.

The pursuit continued for another 20 minutes, coursing through a construction site before weaving in and out of traffic on I-271 and I-480. Officers from neighboring departments eventually took over the pursuit.

Around 1:15 Wednesday morning, officers from Cuyahoga Heights located Avery at a gas station on Harvard Ave, according to a news release from the department.

After a brief pursuit, the vehicle was stopped and surrounded by officers on a tree lawn on Harvard Ave. Avery was taken into custody and taken to MetroHealth Medical Center for evaluation. He has been charged with failure to comply with a police order and felonious assault, both felonies, according to court records. Avery also had outstanding warrants, police said.

"He had an aggravated assault warrant over his head and endangering children. This wasn't his first go-around doing something like this," Det. Matejka said. "He just had a lot going against him. I don't think that's a reason to run but I'm sure that's what motivated him to do what he did. The good thing was that it was late at night so there wasn't a lot of traffic. But still, traveling at those speeds let alone everybody in the vehicle along with other motorists on the street, you're creating a horrible issue for possibly somebody getting hurt or even killed. It's just not a pretty sight doing stuff like that."

After the pursuit had ended, officers had the female passenger and the three children checked out by paramedics. According to News 5 overnight photojournalist Mike Vielhaber, a state trooper was seen trying to comfort the children after the pursuit.

Pursuit Newburgh crash scene 3.jpg
Three children found in the backseat of a car involved in a pursuit with police.

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