Wrong way driver runs trooper off Interstate 91 in Hartland
Grafton man faces slate of charges after being "spiked" in Hartford at 1 a.m.
WHITE RIVER JUNCTION, VT - After a state trooper had to ditch her cruiser into the median early on Sunday morning to avoid a head-on collision by mere inches, and a three-mile pursuit ensued which ended only after a spike strip was deployed across the highway, a Grafton, New Hampshire man allegedly told police that even though he’d been driving the wrong way up Interstate 91 through Hartland and Hartford, he didn’t understand what all the fuss was about.
Jacob Gregorio, 22, posted $1,000 bail later on Sunday and appeared voluntarily in court Monday afternoon where he pleaded innocent to a felony count of attempting to elude police and to accompanying misdemeanor counts of grossly negligent operation of a motor vehicle, excessive speed, reckless endangerment and drunk driving - first offense.
After his arraignment, Gregorio was released from the courthouse in White River Junction with a pre-trial condition requiring him to see a licensed drug-and-alcohol counselor while his case is pending.
Vermont State Police Trooper Stacy Corliss said she was on Interstate 91 at 1 a.m. on Sunday morning when she first heard that another driver was reporting that a Toyota Corolla was headed north up the southbound lanes from the Exit 9 area in Hartland.
Corliss said she utilized a U-turn near the Hartford Rest Areas and started down the southbound lane herself, almost immediately spotting the errant vehicle heading her way about a half-mile south of the rest areas at “a very high rate of speed,” which she estimated at between 90 and 100 mph. Realizing that the on-coming car was centered on the highway, Trooper Corliss said she steered over toward the edge by the median, hoping the driver would see her blue lights and stop.
Instead, Corliss wrote in an affidavit filed with the court, “the suspect vehicle swerved abruptly toward my cruiser, causing me to fear for my life and forcing me to enter the median to avoid a serious collision. As I entered the median the vehicle was so close I was sure it would strike the rear of my cruiser; however, the collision was narrowly avoided.”
Trooper Corliss got turned around and back up onto the highway, recounting that for a moment it appeared that Gregorio had slowed to a stop before he quickly continued north up the southbound side of the highway, slowing again a short time later as he approached another state police cruiser before passing it and heading north through the interchange and past Exit 11 in White River Junction with both cruisers in pursuit.
As Gregorio headed over the Long Bridges spanning the White River, Vermont State Police Sgt. Richard Slusser and Hartford Police Officer Eric Clifford positioned themselves ahead of him and dragged a set of spikes across the southbound lane in the curve that runs between the rock ledges just north of the river.
Gregorio rolled over the spikes, as did Trooper Corliss, who said she was not aware they had been put out there and so she ended up having to drop out of the pursuit.
Trooper Stacia Geno, who was in the other cruiser that Gregorio had passed near the interchange, took up the chase in Corliss’ stead and, along with Slusser and Clifford, managed to finally box Gregorio in and bring the pursuit to a halt at Exit 12 in Wilder.
Gregorio was immediately arrested and transported to the Hartford Police Department for processing where Trooper Jonathan Duncan described Gregorio as “very confused,” saying that he was busy “down-playing the situation” throughout the booking process.
Duncan said that Gregorio “insisted he was not intoxicated” and hadn’t even had anything to drink so he refused to take any breath tests despite his allegedly “exhibiting extreme sway” while standing and doing poorly on field sobriety exercises at the station.
The trooper said Gregorio’s eyes were bloodshot and watery and noted that he “smelled very strongly of intoxicants.”
“(Gregorio) advised he didn’t understand how getting on the interstate in the wrong direction was a big deal,” Trooper Duncan wrote in his report, adding, “The defendant was confused as to where he was (and) asked if he was in Vermont or New Hampshire…and repeatedly stated he didn’t believe traveling the wrong way on the interstate was an issue and stated that he shouldn’t be being held.”
Jacob Gregorio, 22, of Grafton, NH with defense attorney Robert Lees (right) in court Monday
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