Wild motorcycle chase in Kingston brings numerous charges against teen

Bob Fowler knoxnews.com

KINGSTON — It was something that the late daredevil motorcyclist Evel Knievel might have done, Kingston Police Chief Jim Washam said.

A teenaged motorcyclist who almost hit a construction worker, ran a stop sign at a high speed, went airborne when his unregistered motorcycle hit the median and its seat flew off, striking a pursuing police cruiser, remained in the Roane County Jail on Wednesday.

Leonard Ray Merrell IV, 19, of Lenoir City, is charged with two counts of reckless endangerment, evading arrest, improper passing, speeding and a host of other traffic infractions.

During the Tuesday afternoon pursuit, Merrell went into the wrong lane of travel on curves, passed vehicles in a no-passing zone, tried to hide next to a house on Poplar Creek Road and then drove directly toward Assistant Police Chief Gary Nelson’s cruiser before wiping out and fleeing on foot.

“I don’t know he (Merrell) made it as far as he did,” Washam said of the pursuit.

The episode started when Nelson clocked Merrell driving more than 20 mph over the speed limit on North Kentucky Street, and the assistant chief began chasing him.

The fleeing suspect increased his speed, nearly striking the construction worker, before running the stop sign near the new Kingston Municipal Building at an estimated 70 mph, Washam said.

The chief expressed amazement the cyclist didn’t wipe out when the motorcycle struck the median, its seat flew off and Merrell went airborne, with only his hands on the motorcycle. Washam said part of the chase and that incident were captured on an in-cruiser video.

Nelson briefly lost sight of the suspect on Poplar Creek Road before Merrell gunned his motorcycle toward him, losing control on grass and sliding.

A foot pursuit that included Roane County Sheriff’s Department Lt. Tony Guy and a volunteer firefighter resulted in Merrell’s capture, according to the incident report.

Michael Miller of Oliver Springs, who was visiting his grandmother at her Poplar Creek Road residence, said he saw the suspect flee, and he tackled him after Nelson yelled at him to do so.