A naked motorist being pursued after an alleged hit-and-run accident near Occoquan led police from four counties on a wild, 75-mile chase through the Virginia countryside yesterday before he was finally stopped and arrested outside Front Royal in the foothills of the Blue Ridge Mountains. Two policemen were injured in the two-hour-long, hard-charging police pursuit and at least a dozen patrol cars damaged, authorities said.
"It was a fiasco. It was the damnedest chase I've ever witnessed," said Prince William County police Lt. Ronald J. Bove.
When the chase finally ended, police arrested a suspect but were unable at first to identify him because he was nude and carried no wallet. "We have no idea what set him off," said a spokesman for Prince William police, who got involved in the chase after they were notified that a shirtless man was driving a jeep-like vehicle up and down the runway at Woodbridge airport.
"We got some cruisers behind him," the spokesman said, "and he started throwing things out the window. His belt, a pair of scissors, his pants, other stuff."
Late last night Prince William and Virginia State police tentatively identified the suspect as Charles T. Lyles, 31, of Woodbridge and said he had been charged with several counts of reckless driving and of felonious assault with an auto. He was being held without bond early today at the Warren County jail near Front Royal, authorities said.
The chase began about 1:15 p.m. with the report of a hit-and-run accident on Rte. 123 in Fairfax County near the Prince William County line and took pursuing police on a helter-skelter ride over highways, runways, back roads and fields, authorities said.
At one point, the suspect--operating a 4-wheel drive Ford Bronco -- stopped the vehicle as if prepared to give up, then reversed suddenly, struck a Prince William policeman, rammed the officer's cruiser, and then sped off again, authorities said.
By the time police were able to pin the careering vehicle against a guardrail outside Front Royal, the Bronco driver had escaped from nearly a half-dozen "mobile roadblocks" and crashed through at least one stationary roadblock.
"It's the longest chase I've ever worked," state police Sgt. Glenn Millner said. "Most guys just give up. This one didn't."
From Rte. 123 in Fairfax, police officials said, the suspect fled to Woodbridge Airport, at which point Prince William police joined the pursuit. From there, police said, the chase led up Old Bridge Road to Davis Ford Road and then northward on Rte. 234 to Rte. 66 in Manassas.
Police officials said that officers tried several times on Rte. 66 and later on Rtes. 713 and 17 to stop the vehicle by using mobile roadblocks -- a maneuver in which patrol cars were positioned both in front and behind the Bronco in an attempt to bring it slowly to a halt. The Bronco driver evaded the maneuver each time, the officials said, at one point by crashing through a fence and driving across a field and back onto Rte. 17.
Police said Prince William patrolman Robert Williams suffered a fractured rib when he was struck by the Bronco, and state trooper Eugene Balun sustained neck injuries when the suspect rammed his patrol car.
As the Bronco fled into Warren County, police set up a stationary roadblock with several vehicles near the I-66 interchange with Rte. 522, but the driver crashed through that as well before finally slamming into the guardrail.
Police were unable to provide any details of the hit-and-run accident in Fairfax that sparked the chase, except to say that no one was injured.