Driver of car that dragged cop in Glen Rock testifies at trial
Jurors on Thursday heard from two of the three people who were inside a car that dragged a Southern Regional police officer about 100 feet down Water Street in Glen Rock.
The first was the driver of that car, Roberto Tabares Jr., and the other was front-seat passenger David Achstetter, who is standing trial alone this week in York County Court.
Police and prosecutors allege Achstetter held onto the arm of Officer Michael Storeman as Tabares drove off on Nov. 4, 2015. Storeman had been called to investigate a suspicious vehicle with possible drug activity, which is why he approached the trio's car.
Tabares — who pleaded guilty to his role in the case last year — told jurors on Thursday, March 22, that Storeman lied.
He testified Achstetter never grabbed onto Storeman. He also claimed he didn't realize Storeman was a police officer when he initially fled, although Achstetter testified he realized immediately that Storeman was a police officer.
Tabares told jurors he saw a man standing close to his car as his girlfriend, Jenny Kim, was in the backseat injecting heroin. So, Tabares said, he drove off.
"I could hear him running alongside the car," he testified. "He said 'stop' a few times. ... I guess he willingly grabbed onto the car and ran alongside it."
Called cop a liar: Earlier this week, Storeman testified he identified himself as a police officer and was grabbed by the front-seat passenger as the car took off. But Tabares denied that happened.
"I guess he had to make up that lie to support his story," Tabares told the jury, adding Achstetter "was scooted away from the window, like he didn't want to be grabbed."
Under cross-examination by deputy prosecutor Jonathan Blake, Tabares said he has been friends with Achstetter for eight or nine years, maybe more.
He said the only crime Achstetter committed that day was using heroin, which the trio bought in Maryland before driving to Pennsylvania so Achstetter could buy a puppy in Lancaster County.
Tabares acknowledged that he actively tried to avoid police and even drove down a private lane and hid out for an hour or two.
Happened 'very fast': Achstetter took the stand in his own defense and told jurors the incident happened "very, very, very fast — like seconds."
He said he heard Kim yell, "Go, go, go" and that Tabares took off.
Achstetter testified he doesn't remember Storeman trying to open the front passenger door, which the officer testified he started to do. He said he saw Storeman grab the fleeing car.
"At first he was upright, running with the car," Achstetter said, then "all of a sudden ... I could tell he was being dragged."
The defendant testified he's unsure whether he had the strength to hang onto the officer and confirmed he was scared.
Storeman testified the front-seat passenger — whose face he didn't see — grabbed onto him and held fast as Tabares took off.
"I know I was grabbed, pulled (and) the vehicle took off. ... A lot happened in a couple seconds," the officer 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.
What witnesses saw: Multiple eyewitnesses have told jurors that the fleeing car took off quickly, went into the opposing lane to get around stopped traffic, ran the stop sign at Hanover Street and turned left quickly.
That's when Storeman was thrown free of the car, witnesses said.
Tabares claimed to jurors that he went slowly so "the man" would be able to let go of the car.
One of the witnesses testified he's "fairly confident" Storeman's body bumped against the side of his stopped vehicle as Storeman was dragged past him.
Storeman testified Tuesday that he thought he was going to die and said it felt as if the car was going 100 mph. He was 40 years old at the time.
He said at some point, he probably did hold onto the car, "for my survival." But he was clear that initially, someone held onto him.
Charges dropped: Kim, 40, of Germantown, Maryland, came to York County Court on Thursday but was not called to testify by defense attorney Joe Gothie.
Originally a co-defendant in the case, all charges against her were dropped immediately prior to trial. Blake said he can't speak about why until Achstetter's trial is over.
The defense rested its case Thursday afternoon, and closing arguments are expected to begin Friday morning.
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.
Tabares, 40, of Rockville, Maryland, pleaded guilty in May 2017 to aggravated assault and reckless endangerment. He served about 30 months in York County Prison.
— Reach Liz Evans Scolforo at email@example.com or on Twitter at @LizScolforoYD.