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Felony charges follow police chase from Salem to Austintown

The driver and occupant of this vehicle are facing felony charges after leading police on a chase from Salem to Austintown Thursday night. Drug charges are pending. (Photo courtesy WKBN)

SALEM — The driver pursued by Salem police through several jurisdictions before crashing in Austintown Thursday night is facing two felony charges related to the incident which began as an attempted traffic stop.

Jessica Lasater, 32, of 2785 Cunningham Road, was charged with failure to comply (fleeing) and complicity to tampering with evidence, both third-degree felonies. Salem Patrolman John Brooks, who was part of the pursuit, said she was also charged with operating a vehicle under the influence.

Her passenger, Sean Crislip, 31, of Vienna, was charged with tampering with evidence, a third-degree felony, and obstruction of official business, a misdemeanor. He was arraigned in Columbiana County Municipal Court on Friday.

Lasater had been due in court earlier Thursday on a charge of obstructing justice, but failed to appear, with a judge issuing a bench warrant for her arrest.

Salem officers attempted to stop the white GMC Envoy on East State Street near Cunningham Road at 6:31 p.m. for multiple moving violations, and then the chase began,

winding down Cunningham, then left onto Butcher Road and continuing through several jurisdictions on Lisbon-Canfield Road, state Route 14 and state Route 46 before ending in Austintown.

According to the Salem police report, the GMC ran a red light at the intersection of state Route 46 and New Road, resulting in two other vehicles being struck before the Envoy crashed into a tree. The female driver, identified as Lasater, and the male passenger, identified as Crisp, fled on foot but were apprehended with assistance from Austintown and Canfield police departments and the Ohio State Highway Patrol.

Crislip was taken into custody at the scene and taken to the Columbiana County jail while Lasater was transported to St. Elizabeth Hospital for injuries suffered during the crash. Further investigation is pending with additional charges to follow on the female driver, the report said.

Sgt. Danny Green had reported the occupants were seen throwing items out the windows of the vehicle. A search of the vehicle yielded drugs, drug paraphernalia and counterfeit money. The Columbiana County Drug Task Force also responded to the scene to assist.

The initial traffic stop was actually part of a larger drug interdiction operation, with officers focusing on traffic offenses, which in turn resulted in drugs being found in some of the stopped vehicles.

Columbiana County Drug Task Force Director Brian McLaughlin said the two people from the pursuit are known to DTF agents. The statewide drug interdiction operation was done over two days, on Wednesday and Thursday, covering overtime for agents and officers in departments who applied for the funding. The operation was funded through the Ohio Department of Public Safety Ohio Task Force Commanders Association and the High Intensity Drug Trafficking Area program.

“It was a successful two days,” McLaughlin said when contacted by phone.

He said agents and officers got a gun off of the street during one of the stops and seized at least 20 grams of methamphetamine overall, which by national averages would be valued at over $2,000.

“Our local prices are much lower than the national average,” he said.

Other items seized over the two days included about $1,000 cash, half a gram of fentanyl and some marijuana. When asked if an operation like this sends a message, he said “a lot of what we did they’re not going to realize the message for awhile.” Testing may be involved, plus going through the grand jury for indictments. He said the police departments involved in the county also filed various charges related to the stops.

“I appreciate the help from the local police departments, Salem, Lisbon, East Palestine and the county Sheriff’s Office,” McLaughlin said.

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