Glen Rock cop-dragging trial begins
Jurors deciding the fate of a Maryland man accused in the vehicle-dragging of a Southern Regional police officer in Glen Rock are expected to hear from the injured officer on Tuesday.
David Achstetter, 38, of Ocean Pines, is standing trial on charges of aggravated assault, hindering the apprehension of a suspect, unlawful restraint, simple assault, reckless endangerment and criminal mischief.
His trial started Monday, March 19, in York County Court, with opening statements.
Deputy prosecutor Jonathan Blake told jurors that Achstetter is guilty of injuring Officer Michael Storeman by hanging onto the officer from the front passenger seat of a fleeing car.
Storeman was dragged more than 100 feet "before he was flung off (the car) and rolled into an intersection," Blake told the jury.
It happened in the late afternoon of Nov. 4, 2015, when police were called to the CS convenience store on Water Street for a suspicious Toyota Camry that had been in the lot there for more than an hour.
Blake, during his opening statement, said Achstetter and two others were in the car, which had left the store lot and was parked along Water Street when Storeman arrived to investigate.
Saw needle: Storeman walked to the front passenger window of the car and saw the backseat passenger, Jenny Kim, injecting something into her arm with a hypodermic needle, according to Blake.
As Storeman was standing at the window, driver Roberto Tabares Jr. took off at a high rate of speed and Achstetter grabbed onto the officer and held on for about 100 feet, until Tabares ran the stop sign at Hanover Street and Storeman was "flung" free of the car, according to Blake.
But defense attorney Joe Gothie, in his opening statement, asked the jury whether it made sense that someone trying to flee from a police officer would hold on to that officer as they were making their getaway.
He told the jury he wondered whether Achstetter is "physically capable" of doing it.
Tabares will testify for the defense later this week, and will say Achstetter did nothing wrong, according to Gothie.
Storeman is expected to testify Tuesday, March 20, Blake told The York Dispatch.
Cop's legs 'dangling': The first witness called Monday was Christopher Strippel, an emergency medical technician employed by Baltimore County but who volunteers with Glen Rock Ambulance.
He testified he saw Storeman walking toward a parked car, then saw him lean toward it.
"The car took off at a high rate of speed," Strippel said. "I noticed Officer Storeman hanging on the (passenger) side of the vehicle."
Storeman's legs were "dangling behind" him, the EMT recalled, and Storeman was yelling for the car to stop.
Strippel said he was stopped at the intersection of Water and Hanover streets. He testified the fleeing car ran the stop sign at Water and turned left onto Hanover Street while in the oncoming lane.
'I could see hands': Without being prompted, Strippel told jurors, "I knew he was being held onto because I could see hands on top of his."
He testified he rendered aid to Storeman, and that other members of Glen Rock Ambulance rushed over to help as well.
Under cross-examination, Strippel said he could not specifically say he saw Achstetter's hands hanging onto Storeman as the car speeded away.
Three other eyewitnesses said they didn't see anyone holding onto Storeman.
One of them, Benjamin Wood, testified he saw Storeman "hanging onto the side" of the fleeing vehicle.
'Sucked in' car: David Besash was one of the eyewitnesses who said he didn't see any hands hanging onto Storeman. However, he testified that after the officer walked over to the Camry, it appeared he might have been grabbed at.
"It looked like he got sucked in like a vacuum," Besash said. "Then the car took off," its tires squealing.
All the eyewitnesses testified it all happened very quickly, perhaps 5 seconds or less.
Co-defendant Kim, 40, of Germantown, Maryland, was supposed to stand trial this week with Achstetter, but on Monday morning Blake dropped the case against her.
He declined to discuss why, but confirmed charges could technically be refiled. He said he can't say at this point whether the charges will be refiled.
Guilty plea: Tabares, 40, of Rockville, Maryland, pleaded guilty in May 2017 to aggravated assault and reckless endangerment for driving the fleeing vehicle that dragged Storeman.
He was sentenced in July 2017 to 11½ to 23 months in York County Prison. His plea agreement required him to forfeit all his prison credit time — about 18 months.
That means Tabares spent about 30 months in county prison before being released. He was then transported back to Maryland to answer to a criminal detainer that had been lodged against him there, officials have said.
Storeman, who was out of work for about two months recovering from his injuries, spoke at Tabares' sentencing hearing, saying he and his family suffered a "severe hardship."
He called it "an emotional roller coaster, because we did not know if I would be able to return to work and whether my physical injuries would heal," he said.
Storeman suffered injuries to his hand, hips, legs and ankle.
— Reach Liz Evans Scolforo at firstname.lastname@example.org or on Twitter at @LizScolforoYD.