A judge set bail at $15,000 cash for the suspected drunken driver who led police on a high-speed chase through Mendenhall Valley on Tuesday morning, which ended when the driver smashed his truck into a tree.
District Attorney David Brower requested the bail amount during 26-year-old Devin Moorhouse’s arraignment in Juneau District Court Wednesday.
“He and a lot of people are lucky that no one got killed,” Brower said of the eight-minute chase that began on Egan Drive near McDonald’s around 11 a.m.
Citing police reports, Brower added, “Mr. Moorhouse told his passenger, ‘I’m f---ing running.’ And that’s what he did.”
Moorhouse faces three felony charges for failure to stop at the direction of a police officer and assault for placing his 33-year-old passenger, Corena Willard, in fear of injury. Those are all class ‘C’ felonies that can carry a maximum punishment of five years in prison.
He also faces three misdemeanors, which can carry up to one year in prison, for driving while under the influence, criminal mischief and driving with a revoked license.
Brower stated in an affidavit the chase began when Moorhouse, whose blood alcohol concentration was 0.327, almost hit a Juneau Police Department car while driving on Egan Drive outbound near McDonald’s. Moorhouse’s alleged BAC was more than four times Alaska’s legal limit of 0.08.
The officer, Sgt. Dominic Branson, signaled for Moorhouse to pull over, and Moorhouse stopped at a red light at the Mendenhall Loop Road intersection. But when Branson exited his vehicle and took a couple of steps towards the truck, Moorhouse sped off, driving through the red light, according to the affidavit.
Branson jumped back in his vehicle, with lights flashing, and pursued the truck, the affidavit states. The truck soon turned off Egan Drive onto Riverside Drive and stopped on the shoulder of the road.
Brower said Branson then used the police vehicle’s public address system to instruct the driver to turn off the truck.
The truck slowly began to roll forward on the shoulder, which prompted Branson to pull his vehicle alongside the truck and yell at Moorhouse through open windows, according to the affidavit. Branson told Moorhouse to turn off the truck and drop the keys out of the window, Brower said.
“There’s no question that he knew what he was doing,” Brower told Judge Keith Levy. “He knew the officer was trying to stop him.”
Moorhouse took the keys out of the ignition, but then changed his mind. He fumbled with the keys, restarted the truck and drove off “at a high rate of speed,” the affidavit reads.
In pursuit, Branson observed Moorhouse’s truck barrel through another red light at the intersection of Riverside Drive and Vintage Boulevard, almost causing an accident, Brower says in the affidavit. Moorhouse continued on Riverside at an estimated 70 to 80 miles per hour in a 35-miles-per-hour zone, the affidavit alleges.
Branson stopped pursuing the truck near Division Street, believing it was an “unjustifiable risk to people in the area,” Lt. David Campbell, a JPD spokesman said in an earlier interview.
Officer Jason Van Sickle then picked up the truck’s location on Mendenhall Boulevard at Loop Road, and starting chasing it.
Moorhouse’s truck soon after hit the front bumper of Branson’s police vehicle, which was parked on Delta Drive. Branson, who was outside of his vehicle, was anticipating Moorhouse would try to flee on foot at the dead end of Valley Boulevard, the affidavit states.
The truck kept going until Moorhouse lost control and crashed into a tree at Aspen Avenue and Portage Boulevard a little after 11 a.m.
Levy said Wednesday he was concerned Moorhouse would attempt to avoid future court hearings if released.
“Clearly what’s described is behavior that put people in a lot of danger, and attempt to flee gives me concern about whether or not you’d make it to court,” Levy said.
If Moorhouse is released, he will have to have a third-party custodian, and is not allowed to drink or possess alcohol, Levy ruled.
Levy appointed the Public Defender Agency to represent Moorhouse after he told the judge he collected unemployment.
Moorhouse held a copy of the charging documents in front of his face for the duration of the hearing to avoid having his picture taken by media.
He was told he didn’t yet have to enter a plea.
Levy scheduled a preliminary hearing to be held later this month, but said it would be vacated if Moorhouse was indicted by a grand jury.
Brower said in court Moorhouse has two prior burglary convictions, which he has served time for.
• Contact reporter Emily Russo Miller at 523-2263 or at firstname.lastname@example.org.