Highway Patrol busts multiple cars this month
Whatever the Missouri State Highway Patrol is doing, it’s working. Even if that means just working harder. The Highway Patrol busted four vehicles this month that have led to more than 100 pounds of marijuana seized. Sgt. Jake Angle said the troopers haven’t changed much that has led to this unusual amount. He said they’re just out patrolling the area and trying to keep it safe. “These are just our troopers going out working hard every day just conducting complete traffic stops; stopping cars and paying attention to what’s going on around them,” Angle said. “Nothing’s going on. We’re not doing anything special. It’s just guys going out there, working hard, and through the course of those guys out there doing what they do every day, here lately, we just hit several fairly sizable seizures.” The first bust came March 5. It was a Sunday morning around 7 when troopers stopped a Nissan Sentra near the 63-mile marker on Interstate 29 in Andrew County. Eight pounds of marijuana, ecstasy pills and $5,000 in U.S. currency were recovered that day. The driver, Michael L. Nelson, 22, of Nebraska, and passenger Miya A. Jackson, 20, of California, were arrested for possession of a controlled substance and second-degree drug trafficking. A little more than two weeks later, the patrol made three more stops in a five-day span that led to drug busts. On Wednesday, March 22, Troop H found 47 pounds of pot along with two handguns after stopping a Honda Civic with four people inside at the 53-mile marker. Those four individuals — Guillermo Cortez-Guzman, from Fellsmere, Florida, and Wenatchee, Washington, residents Elias Ramirez-Aguilar, Rosario Perez-Rodriguez and Beatriz Luna-Serato — all were charged with possession of a controlled substance, delivery of a controlled substance and unlawful use of a weapon. The following day, a K-9 with Troop H led them to another bust, this time for 20 pounds of marijuana. A Ford Fusion driven by Joseph Fartantonio of North Hollywood, California, was stopped near the 50-mile marker heading south on I-29. Then, this past Sunday, a traffic chase led to another 26 pounds of marijuana. The patrol stopped a fleeing car after the suspect crashed his Dodge Charger in Holt County. Driver Charles E. Jones of Denver lost control of his vehicle at the 70-mile marker and crashed into a guardrail. Jones was transported to Mosaic Life Care via Holt County ambulance, where he is in serious but stable condition. He faces a charge of possession of a controlled substance with intent to distribute. That’s 101 total pounds and eight people arrested. “I don’t think Missouri was their final destination,” Angle said. “It’s been kind of crazy here the last three or four weeks, but that’s good.” Angle added they’ve found more than just marijuana. Illegal weapons and fugitives from out of state also have been captured because of the stops.
Domestic call turns violent on Trooper
A veteran state trooper encountered a hostile situation when dispatched to an early morning call Tuesday in Lincoln County. Corporal David Fry of the WVSP Hamlin Detachment was nearing the end of this shift when he responded to a domestic complaint at an apartment complex on Midway Road near the Lincoln-Kanawha County line, according to State Police Spokesman Lt. Michael Baylous. “He could hear shouting from inside as he approached the apartment,” Baylous said Tuesday on MetroNews “Talkline.” “The way the apartment was laid out he couldn’t see the male suspect inside, but he could see the female. He was able to get her attention and get her to come out the door which most likely saved her life.” Once the female fled the apartment, Fry came under a hail of gunfire from inside the apartment. The suspect, identified as Jeremiah Yeager, 40, opened fire with a rifle. Two of the shots struck Fry in the wrist and shoulder. Earlier reports indicated Fry had also been shot in the leg. Baylous said it turned out that report was inaccurate. Fry returned fire as he retreated from the building. “He returned fire at the suspect and it got to the point he was out of rounds in his pistol,” said Baylous. “Because of the severity of his injury to his wrist, he didn’t have use of that hand and was unable to reload.” Knowing he was in rural Lincoln County at 2 a.m. Fry realized backup would take a while, so he got into his cruiser and with two severe wounds began driving toward Charleston. “Along the route he did encounter the female victim and tried to coax her into coming with him,” Baylous said. “She was so frantic that she took off and hid in the woods or along the creek bank.” Fry met the ambulance at the Southridge Shopping Center in Charleston and was transported on to CAMC via ambulance. State police units responded to the scene where Yeager had barricaded himself inside the apartment. State police incident response teams along with Kanawha County Sheriff’s Department deputies spent several hours attempting to establish communications with Yeager inside the home using robots normally deployed for explosive removal. They were able to locate him in the bathtub of the apartment’s bathroom where the entry units were in position and did establish communication. “He put the rifle aside, but he had a handgun still within reach which he was trying to conceal from the entry team,” Baylous explained. “When they got in they did notice the handgun and there was a scuffle and they were able to take him into custody without injury to any other officers.Fry is being treated for his wounds and according to Baylous is doing remarkably well for the severity of the injuries. He’s in serious, but stable condition. The female victim is also being treated for her injuries suffered in the initial domestic violence incident and Yeager was taken to the hospital for evaluation for minor injuries he received during the apprehension. Yeager is charged with domestic assault, domestic battery, malicious wounding, attempted murder on a police officer, obstruction, brandishing and strangulation. He allegedly struck the woman several times with the gun.
Ohio State Highway Patrol's Trooper of the Year
A Lorain native committed to serving his community has been named Ohio State Highway Patrol Trooper of the Year from among nine District Troopers of the Year across the state. Ray Santiago is honored to be named trooper of the year, but says it is still unbelievable. “It is all so surreal,” Santiago said. “Once they called my name, I took a deep breath and did a mental checklist — kiss your wife, shake captain’s hand, and hug your mother — before walking to the stage.” Santiago said he had no idea he would receive this recognition. “It’s one of the state’s best kept secrets, literally,” he said. “It’s human nature to want to know, but no one would budge.” Santiago said his passion and longing to make a difference in the community came from a childhood dream of being a member of the military. “I had a regret of not joining the military when I was younger,” he said. “When the opportunity presented itself to me to join the Patrol, I felt it was kind of a way to fulfill that regret. “It gives me a chance to serve at a local level, at home and still get that sense of service .” Santiago joined the Highway Patrol in 2010 as a member of the 150th Academy Class. In 2011, he earned his commission and was assigned to the Ashland Post. In 2013, he was transferred to the Elyria Post in North Ridgeville. “I was blessed to be able to return home and I have been here ever since, which is about four years now,” Santiago said. He has earned the Criminal Patrol Award in 2012, 2013, 2014, 2015 and 2016. Santiago was selected as the Elyria Post Trooper of the Year in 2013, 2014, 2015 and 2016. He also was selected as District Trooper of the Year for the Bucyrus District and Cleveland District and earned the Chiaramonte Humanitarian Award in 2014 and 2016. While appreciative of the recognition, Santiago said he feels everyone who was nominated for Trooper of the Year merits it as well. “Every trooper nominated deserves the title because we all contribute in different ways,” he said. “The only thing I take credit for is the blessing to be able to help my community.” Without his great support system, he said he would not be where he is now. “I have amazingly supportive coworkers, supervisors and family members,” Santiago said. “If I don’t have any one of those ingredients, I would not be able to do half as much as I do.” Aside from Highway Patrol duties, Santiago is active with Operation Open Heart, a nonprofit organization started in 1962 by former trooper David Harper. It facilitates support and mentorship by law enforcement and public safety services of boys ages 6-17, receiving assistance through Lorain County Children Services. “I’m a huge proponent of early intervention and interaction; going to visit them is very fulfilling,” Santiago said. “I’m not there because something bad happened, but because I want to be there.” Santiago also is active in his church, Sacred Heart Chapel, 4301 Pearl Ave. in Lorain, and participates with the Boys and Girls Clubs of Lorain County. He said he makes frequent visits and last year he was able to provide school supplies for the children at the Boys and Girls Clubs. “I truly want young people to know that I’m not their adversary; I’m here to serve them, like a friend,” Santiago said. “Too often, we are viewed as the bad guys. But that’s not the case. We are here to serve them.” Santiago said he wants to continue being a positive influence in the community. “I want to continue contributing to my hometown and making a safer Ohio,” he said.
State trooper saves woman from burning home
An off-duty Indiana State Trooper is being credited for saving the life of a woman trapped inside a burning Muncie home. Trooper Jacob Ridgeway was driving in his marked state police car in the city Wednesday night. As he passed a home in the 1200 block of Cowing Drive, he saw white smoke coming from the back of the residence. Then, he noticed the smoke go from white to black in his rear view mirror. Police say Ridgeway backed up in front of the house and got out off his vehicle. When he went up the driveway, he told police he could see a vehicle engulfed in flames under a carport. The homeowner, Jack Mitchener, was standing outside the carport. Ridgeway was able to get him away from the fire but couldn’t get an information because Mitchener appeared to be in shock. A neighbor told the trooper Mitchener’s wife, Virginia, was still inside. Meanwhile, the fire was spreading to the back of the home. Ridgeway was able to get inside through a side patio door. He found Mrs. Mitchener sitting in a chair with her walker nearby. Smoke was beginning to fill the home as he helped her outside. Once everyone was safe, the trooper radioed Indiana State Police Dispatch to bring fire units. Paramedics also responded and evaluated everyone at the scene. No one was hurt. Ridgeway is a one year member of the State Police and is assigned to the Pendleton District. State Police said the incident is a reminder that a trooper is always on duty and shows the value of troopers living in the communities where they serve.