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Wyalusing Man Faces Felony Charge For Assaulting Police Officer
A 21-year-old Wyalusing man faces a battery of charges, including felony aggravated assault of a police officer, resisting arrest and fleeing or attempting to elude police as a result of an incident in Athens Township last Monday evening. What started out as a routine traffic stop of Jeremy "J.J." Friedlander on Rt. 220 ended up with arresting officers alleging they had to subdue him after he attempted to drive from the scene while fighting off one of the officers, resulting in injuries to the latter.
In the affidavit of probable cause filed by Athens Township Officer Thomas J. VanFleet, Jr., a narrative of the sequence of events was provided by VanFleet. He was accompanied by Athens Borough Police Officer Nathan Ross. Ross and VanFleet were both on duty for their respective departments, conversing just off Rt. 220 on Rt. 199 when they observed Friedlander's white Jeep traveling south on Rt. 220. VanFleet stated that upon observing two white neon lights on the roof of the Jeep that appeared to be in violation of ornamental lighting, he decided to perform a traffic stop and was advised by Ross that he would accompany him.
After pulling Friedlander over further south on Rt. 220 at about 9:25 p.m., he also observed the vehicle's license plate was partially obstructed by condensation over its clear plastic cover. After providing vehicle information, Friedlander said he had no driver's license on his person but did supply his name, address and birth date.
The following series of events is then alleged in Officer VanFleet's signed affidavit:
—The officer observed binoculars on the dash of the car and was informed they were used for woodchuck hunting. Friedlander also admitted having a rifle in the vehicle next to him, which was observed by the officer, who then requested the driver step out of the vehicle and proceed to the rear, where he was patted down;
—VanFleet removed a Savage rifle with scope from the Jeep and, in doing so, observed a small wooden bat between the driver's seat and center console, which Friedlander explained he used for his personal protection. While continuing to check inside the vehicle, with Friedlander reportedly sitting on the ground behind his vehicle as ordered, he observed a black bag. When partially opening the bag, he saw "a small burner and a plastic container" and also detected a strong chemical odor emanating from the bag. He said it was then that he informed Ross "I believed there to be methamphetamine-related items in the vehicle;"
—While the two officers were conversing, Friedlander stood up and ran to the passenger side of the vehicle, entering from that side and climbing into the driver's seat, putting it into gear. VanFleet opened the driver's side door, "Grabbing Mr. Friedlander, yelling for him to stop." Friedlander, however, began to drive from the scene, dragging the officer, who was partially outside, along;
—"I was able to pull myself into the driver's compartment of the vehicle and proceeded to wrestle and fight with him, attempting to stop the vehicle," VanFleet reported. Friedlander continued to drive away at was what described as "a high rate of speed." The two continued to wrestle for control and VanFleet said he almost fell out the open driver's door at one point before being able to maintain a grip on the driver and then reach in and shift the gear into park. Meanwhile, Friedlander is described as continuing to attempt to drive his Jeep, revving the engine. They continued to travel off the highway before VanFleet says he was able to yank the keys from the ignition and toss them further into the vehicle. The Jeep finally came to a stop only a few feet from a nearby house, and
—the two continued fighting and wrestling. The officer was able to pull Friedlander out of the Jeep with both arms wrapped around him, with him falling on his back on the ground and Friedlander on top of him. Friedlander continued to resist until Officer Ross arrived and they were able to handcuff the suspect, who continued to resist. He was finally subdued after backup units arrived. It was at this point that Friedlander offered his apologies to VanFleet.
After it was over, VanFleet reported a number of injuries, including ruptured ligaments in his right hand, an abrasion on his left shin and pain in his lower left leg. Charges filed against Friedlander included: felony counts of aggravated assault and kidnapping; recklessly endangering another person; unlawful restraint; resisting arrest; counts of simple assault; hindering apprehension; the weapons violations of prohibited offensive weapons and possession of instruments of crime (both pertaining to the wooden bat); fleeing or attempting to elude police; escape; disorderly conduct, and the summary traffic offenses of reckless driving, a lighting violation and an obstructed license plate.
Friedlander was arraigned on $500,000 monetary bail, with a preliminary hearing to be scheduled before District Justice Michael Shaw in Sayre.