This article by John Lippman was first published June 9 in the Valley News.
A Chester, Vt. man is facing criminal charges in two states after he allegedly left the emergency department at Dartmouth Hitchcock Medical Center in Lebanon, New Hampshire, entered an unoccupied parking shuttle and drove off. to be on the run, leading police on a cross-border pursuit that ended when he was apprehended in Springfield, Vermont, an hour later.
Witnesses to Wednesday night’s incident said they were stunned by the disturbing event.
Mitchell Horton, 38, was charged in Vermont with driving a vehicle with gross negligence, evading a police officer, operating a vehicle without the owner’s consent and possessing stolen property, according to a Weathersfield Police news release.
He was being held for lack of $50,000 bond at the Southern State Correctional Center in Springfield and was due to be arraigned in Windham Superior Court in Brattleboro on Friday.
In New Hampshire, Horton is charged with theft by unauthorized taking and is scheduled to appear in Grafton County Superior Court on June 23, according to Lebanese police.
Weathersfield police said three warrants had been issued for Horton’s arrest prior to Wednesday’s incident.
Dartmouth Health spokeswoman Audra Burns referred all questions to Lebanese police.
According to authorities, after Horton departed, the shuttle was observed heading south on Interstate 91 “at high speed”, and the driver ignored police orders to stop.
The driver left the freeway at Exit 8 in Weathersfield and traveled west on Route 131 before turning south on Route 106 with police vehicles “in pursuit” until the shuttle “ends up stopping behind a residence on French Meadow Road,” Weathersfield Police said in a news release.
Horton fled on foot before being taken into custody on Bellows Road in Springfield, police said.
Witnesses described a chilling scene outside the hospital.
Brandy Tibbets, a graphic designer from Canaan, said she was sitting on the bench outside the ER entrance about 10 minutes before 7 p.m. Wednesday when she saw a man “run out of the ER into a black hoodie, blue shorts and blood all over him.”
The man was followed by a security guard, Tibbets said, “but she couldn’t follow.”
The next thing she heard, Tibbets said, was someone shouting, “Hey! Hey! Hey!”
Then she saw the DHMC shuttle speeding away.
“By the time he got to the end of the road, he must have been going 50 mph,” Tibbets observed. “He knocked him down. You could hear it. He was reading that transmission all the way through.
Tibbets said he then saw a Lebanese police car and a DHMC security vehicle that were both parked near the emergency room entrance, each heading in opposite directions around the loop of the access road to the hospital. ‘hospital.
“With that kind of erratic driving, he could have hurt innocent people,” said Tibbets, who recalled worrying that the shuttle might collide with her husband’s car as he drove away. went to the hospital.
Preston Bacon watched the scene unfold from the hallway windows of the birthing ward a few floors above the emergency room entrance. Bacon was there to visit his partner, Liz Nye, who had given birth to their son four hours earlier.
Bacon said he noticed the DHMC shuttle, which transports hospital employees from the facility’s main building to campus satellite parking lots, parked behind an Advance Transit bus.
Bacon said he heard what he thought sounded like an argument between the two shuttle drivers, but looked out the window and saw the DHMC shuttle driver dressed in a bright green shirt outside his vehicle “yelling at (the man inside the vehicle) to stop.” He saw the shuttle driver banging on the side of the van while yelling at the driver, then “backing up” as the bus roared onto the sidewalk and “took off”.
“I mean, he was carrying,” Bacon said. “He didn’t take things lightly. He was coming out of there.
Burns did not respond to questions about protocols for DHMC shuttle drivers while in possession of their vehicle. The shuttle driver has only worked for DHMC for a few months and has previously driven for Advance Transit, according to his daughter-in-law, Ariana Baumann of Orford, New Hampshire.
Baumann said he received a phone call around 7:30 p.m. from his stepfather, who told him: “’Go get your mother. My bus has just been stolen.
According to Baumann, “I asked him outright, ‘How did your bus get stolen?’ He said he got off the bus for not even a full minute, and the next thing he knows this guy comes running around the corner, gets on the bus and drives off.
“But the worst part was that my stepfather’s wallet, phone and truck keys were all on the bus,” Baumann said. The items had not yet been returned, she said, as police were still investigating the incident.
Baumann, who lives with his mother and stepfather, described his family as “all pretty shaken up” by the incident.
“I don’t think any of us got much sleep last night,” she said.
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