Man leads cops on 100 mph chase

OKEECHOBEE — A man wanted in Illinois and described as “armed and dangerous” led local law enforcement on a 13-minute chase early Monday through the southwest and southeast section of the county.

Deputy John Fisher, of the Okeechobee County Sheriff’s Office (OCSO), indicated in his arrest report that two OCSO patrol units were damaged in the March 27 100-mph chase around 5 a.m. that didn’t end until Austin Ehrhart Dale’s Toyota pickup overturned.

Austin Ehrhart Dale, 38

Dale, 38, was arrested on felony charges of aggravated battery on a law enforcement officer, assault on a law enforcement officer and fleeing and eluding a law enforcement officer. He was also charged with reckless driving with damage to person or property, which is a misdemeanor.

Tuesday, March 28, additional felony charges were filed against Dale. Those charges were possession of a controlled substance (methamphetamine) and possession of a controlled substance (oxycodone) without a prescription. He was also charged with the misdemeanors of possession of marijuana under 20 grams and possession of a drug not properly labeled (two counts).

The Illinois native was booked into the Okeechobee County Jail, where he is being held without bond.

According to Deputy Fisher the chase started when he tried to stop Dale on S.W. 28th Street because he was driving erratically. Prior to stopping the man, Deputy Fisher pointed out his dispatcher told him the State of Illinois had outstanding warrants calling for Dale’s arrest.

Those warrants charged Dale with obstruction of justice, armed and dangerous, obstruction of justice for leaving the state and aggravated fleeing from police.

“According to the National Crime Information Center (NCIC) entry, the subject (Dale) is considered to be armed and dangerous, and Illinois would extradite the subject based on the warrants,” noted Deputy Fisher.

At one point, continued the deputy, Dale ran a red light on U.S. 441 South and turned onto S.E. 28th Street and was traveling at speeds topping the century mark.

On S.E. 24th Blvd., Dale turned around in a cul-de-sac, and intentionally struck a chain link fence as law enforcement tried to box him in, stated the report. Dale then intentionally drove his pickup into the patrol unit driven by OCSO Deputy Sergeant Chris Hans, which disabled the unit and caused damage to the car’s front end.

He also tried to run his vehicle into a patrol unit driven by Deputy Brian Cross, continued the report.

“Deputy Cross had to take immediate evasive action to avoid the collision, and drove off the roadway and into a yard. No damage was done to the Deputy Cross’ patrol unit or the yard,” stated Deputy Fisher.

Deputy Joseph Hall then laid out some stop sticks at S.E. 31st Street and S.E. 18th Terrace, but Dale avoided the devices by leaving the roadway.

As Dale tried to make “an abrupt turn onto S.W. Fifth Avenue,” noted Deputy Fisher, he slammed on the brakes which caused the OCSO unit driven by Deputy Justin Deluca to hit the Toyota in the back end. The deputy’s vehicle sustained damage to the front end.

“The truck struck a raised curb median and rolled over, ending the pursuit,” continued the deputy’s report.

The 13-minute chase covered about 9.8 miles, indicated Deputy Fisher.

Dale was taken to the Raulerson Hospital emergency room to be treated for unspecified injuries. None of the deputies were injured.

Besides the criminal charges, Dale was issued traffic citations for violating a traffic control device and aggressive reckless driving.

Eric Kopp is a staff writer for the Okeechobee News

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