Dragged Southern York officer: 'I thought I was going to die'

Liz Evans Scolforo
York Dispatch

Southern Regional Police Officer Michael Storeman told jurors he thought he was going to die as a Toyota Camry dragged him down Water Street in Glen Rock more than two years ago.

"To me, it felt like the vehicle was going 100 mph," Storeman testified on Tuesday, March 20. "At what point I was left go, I couldn't tell you."

It was the second day of trial for David Achstetter, who is accused of hanging on to Storeman as the driver of the car, Roberto Tabares Jr., fled at a high rate of speed. 

In this file photo, police investigate the scene where a Southern Regional police officer was dragged about 125 feet by a fleeing car on Nov. 4, 2015.  John A. Pavoncello photo

Storeman was 40 years old on Nov. 4, 2015, when he was dispatched to the CS convenience store on Main Street in Glen Rock for a report of a suspicious vehicle about 4:40 p.m. He said he was told there were three occupants in the car, and drug activity was suspected.

Storeman testified that by the time he got to the store, the suspicious car had pulled about a block away and parked — badly — along Water Street.

He walked to it and peered in, at which point he saw Jenny Kim in the back seat, "shooting up an unknown substance in her arm" that he suspected was heroin, he said. Both passenger-side windows were open, he said.

When Kim saw him she pulled the needle from her arm, dropped it and said something to Achstetter and Tabares, according to the officer.

Saw man 'reach': "At that point the front-seat passenger started to reach and grab for things," Storeman testified, adding he was concerned Achstetter might be reaching for a gun.

David Achstetter

Storeman told jurors that's when he opened the passenger door of the car to get a look inside and reassess what his next move should be. But he was only able to get the car door open about an inch, he said.

"At that point I was grabbed (and) the vehicle took off," he said. "It accelerated very quickly down Water Street."

He said he started running to keep up with the car, but lost his footing and was dragged as the car was headed toward oncoming traffic. He said his arm was being held inside the car.

"I thought I was going to die or sustain serious injuries," Storeman testified. "Had I had the opportunity to pull away, I would have. ... The only thing in my mind was, 'How am I going to survive this?'"

The fleeing car, driven by Tabares, went into the oncoming lane to avoid traffic, ran the stop sign at the "T" intersection and turned left onto Hanover Street, the officer said.

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Landed facedown: "(That) is when I was released from the vehicle," Storeman testified. "I rolled several feet and landed facedown in the middle of the intersection."

Deputy prosecutor Jonathan Blake asked the officer whether at any point he grabbed on to the fleeing car.

"I would say at some point yes ... for my survival," Storeman said.

During cross-examination, defense attorney Joe Gothie asked the officer numerous questions about how he was grabbed, how he was held on to and when he was released.

"I know I was grabbed, pulled (and) the vehicle took off. ... A lot happened in a couple seconds," Storeman testified. "My right arm was pulled into the (car's) compartment. ... I had no choice but to move with the vehicle."

Storeman said he simply doesn't know at what point Achstetter released his arm, and he testified he never reached into the car of his own volition.

Also testifying Tuesday morning was eyewitness Leonard Jungclaus, who told jurors he saw Storeman at the Camry moments before he heard the screeching of tires and realized the Camry was dragging the officer as it passed by Jungclaus' stopped vehicle.

Jenny Kim

Heard thump: "I heard a thump," Jungclaus said. "I'm fairly confident ... part of his body must have hit my vehicle."

Blake then showed the jury photos of Jungclaus' car that depicted where a thin layer of dust or dirt had been wiped away, apparently by Storeman's uniform.

Blake also presented jurors photos of that uniform, which showed both the shirt and pants were damaged and dusty. Photos of Storeman's shiny black boots showed that the left toe was badly scuffed, apparently from dragging on the ground.

Blake is expected to rest the prosecution's case after calling Southern Regional Police Detective William Shafer took the stand. Shafer was the lead investigator in the case and is expected to go over physical evidence with the jury.

Achstetter, 38, of Ocean Pines, Maryland, is charged with aggravated assault, hindering the apprehension of a suspect, unlawful restraint, simple assault, reckless endangerment and criminal mischief.

Roberto Tabares

Presiding Common Pleas Judge Harry Ness sent jurors home at lunchtime because of the snow, according to Blake. Trial is expected to resume Wednesday, unless the weather causes officials to close the judicial center.

Charges dropped: 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 and said he can't say at this point whether charges will be refiled against her.

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 served about 30 months in York County Prison.

— Reach Liz Evans Scolforo at levans@yorkdispatch.com or on Twitter at @LizScolforoYD.