SAVOY — A Champaign man who led police on a cat-and-mouse pursuit for about four hours early Thursday was eventually arrested for driving under the influence.
Zachary S. Garrels, 19, who listed an address in the 2900 block of Heritage Drive, Champaign, was arrested about 6 a.m. Thursday after crashing his friend's Hummer into a ditch southwest of Champaign.
Champaign County sheriff's Sgt. Dan Coile said one of his deputies had first tried to stop the sport utility vehicle on Old Church and Duncan roads in Savoy just minutes before 2 a.m. Thursday for suspicion of drunken driving. As Deputy Jonathan Reifsteck pulled up behind the vehicle, it took off, driving into a plowed field.
Coile said Reifsteck lost sight of the vehicle in the fog and rain but minutes later, Coile said he spotted it in the Liberty on the Lakes subdivision in Savoy, which is south of Curtis Road.
When Coile attempted to stop the SUV, it also kept going, making its way east on Curtis and into another plowed field.
Coile said officers set up a perimeter to catch the driver, but it wasn't until about 3:30 a.m. that they spotted the SUV again driving through a farm field toward Old Church Road near Duncan without any headlights on. The driver again ignored a deputy's attempt to stop it, and again the deputies lost sight of the vehicle in the fog.
"We could hear the exhaust moving through the field but couldn't see it," Coile said.
Coile said Reifsteck heard the vehicle again about 4 a.m. and tried to stop it, but it again went into a farm field in that area.
Coile said about 5:15 a.m., because of the weather conditions and the increase in morning traffic, he had deputies call off the search for the SUV out of concern for safety.
At 6:04 a.m., a passerby called police to report seeing two men, identified as Garrels and Michael Basham, 21, of Pontiac, sitting on a bench outside the First Christian Church at 3601 S. Staley Road, C.
"They were wet and smeared with mud on their pants and shoes," said Coile.
Deputies found the Hummer on its side in a ditch just south of Old Church Road and west of Staley.
The men told deputies they had been at a party in Champaign and that Garrels persuaded Basham, the owner of the vehicle, to let him drive. When Reifsteck attempted to stop the vehicle just before 2 a.m., Coile said, Garrels became scared because he was intoxicated and told Basham he wasn't going to stop. Basham told deputies he tried to persuade his friend to stop.
Garrels tried to cross a ditch in the field near the church and a wheel of the SUV broke. It then slid down a steep embankment and rolled on its side, Coile said.
Garrels was arrested for driving under the influence, reckless driving, aggravated fleeing and eluding, and improper lane usage. He remained in the county jail Friday and was expected to be arraigned Friday afternoon.
Coile said Basham was given a ticket for permitting a driver under the influence to drive his vehicle.