Tahlequah Daily Press

January 21, 2013

Charges filed in December crash case

By JOSH NEWTON
Staff Writer

TAHLEQUAH — Prosecutors have filed charges against a Welling man who allegedly fled from police in late December and then crashed his vehicle.

Brandon Kirk Hembree, 24, is charged with eluding or attempting to elude a police officer, driving a motor vehicle while under the influence of alcohol and drugs, and unlawful possession of drug paraphernalia.

Tahlequah Patrolman Brandon Vick said he was patrolling about 1 a.m. Dec. 26, when he saw a car at the Tahlequah Motor Lodge parking lot area with a man standing near the passenger door. Vick said he believed a hand-to-hand drug transaction might have been taking place, so he parked his car to observe.

When the vehicle  driven by Hembree left, Vick decided to follow the car, but Hembree allegedly took the vehicle to speeds of about 100 mph and drove in the wrong lanes to pass several cars. Vick pursued the vehicle as it traveled south toward the Cherokee Nation complex.

Hembree allegedly continued south on Muskogee Avenue at speeds of around 120 mph, then tried to turn into Sequoyah High School. He continued driving the vehicle on various roads at high speeds.

Vick said he began to notice slick spots on the roads, so he slowed down and soon decided to call off the pursuit.

Vick and fellow Tahlequah officers Tony Aguilar and Cory Keele started driving back to the city on Stone Chapel Road and came upon Hembree’s vehicle in a ditch, turned onto its top. Officers said a female passenger was outside of the vehicle, holding her chest, and a male passenger – identified as Robert Finch – was on his back, hanging halfway out of a window.

Patrolman Tony Aguilar found Hembree in the ditch about 40 feet from the vehicle with a severe cut to his head and road rash all over his body, according to Vick.

Vick said a smoking pipe that smelled of burnt marijuana was found in Hembree’s front pocket.

Aguilar tried to keep Hembree warm until medical personnel arrived, according to Vick’s report. Finch was checked by EMS and released, and officers later arrested him for public intoxication. Hembree was eventually taken to a Tulsa hospital for his injuries, and the female passenger was taken to a Tahlequah hospital.

Supplemental information filed with the formal charges against Hembree indicate his previous convictions in Cherokee County could enhance his sentence.

Hembree was convicted of possession of a stolen vehicle, second-degree burglary, malicious injury to property, and assault and battery in 2006, and was given a three-year deferred sentence.

In 2008, that sentence was accelerated to seven years, with all but six months suspended; a few months later, the sentence was revoked to six years in the Department of Corrections.

He was convicted of driving under the influence and received a one-year suspended sentence in 2008. The same year was convicted of aggravated assault and battery and given five years in prison.

Other previous Cherokee County charges against Hembree include two counts of possession of a stolen vehicle from 2007, when he was convicted and received a five-year deferred sentence.

In October 2010, that sentence was accelerated to five years, when he faced charges of unauthorized use of a vehicle and second-degree burglary.

Hembree could face three years to life in prison, along with fines, on the latest charge of eluding or attempting to elude a police officer.