Man charged in police chase


A 28-year-old Carroll County man was charged yesterday with assault in the ramming of a state police car and 17 traffic violations during an hourlong chase that began on the Jones Falls Expressway in Baltimore and ended with a swarm of police officers converging on his ex-girlfriend's home in downtown Westminster on Wednesday night.

Bail for Neal M. Babstock was set at $35,000 yesterday morning by a Carroll County District Court commissioner on three criminal charges, including unauthorized use of the woman's car, according to court records.

In addition to two charges of assault and one of unauthorized use of a motor vehicle, Babstock was charged in Carroll County with driving on a license that was suspended for nonpayment of child support, eluding police on foot and in a vehicle, reckless and negligent driving, running seven red lights and four speeding charges, according to the court records and state police at the Westminster barracks.

The incident began about 9:15 p.m. Wednesday when a Baltimore officer saw a 1995 Oldsmobile Ciera on the Jones Falls Expressway and attempted to issue an equipment-repair order for a right front headlight, according to state police. The driver then went the wrong way on a ramp from Cold Spring Lane and headed south to the end of the expressway.

Troopers from the Golden Ring barracks took up the chase when the driver headed north on the JFX into Baltimore County, police said.

The driver headed into Baltimore County, then north on Falls Road and into Hampstead and Manchester in Carroll County, using main roads and back roads as he headed across Gorsuch Road toward Westminster, said Cpl. Tracy A. Hart of the Westminster barracks.

The driver ran red lights along Route 140 at Englar Road, Gorsuch Road, Ralph Street, Center Street, Royer Road and at WMC Drive at Route 31, according to charging documents. He was clocked at speeds of 75, 70, 65 and 60 mph in 40, 30 and 25 mph zones.

Stop sticks deflated a front tire on the car near Route 31 and Uniontown Road in Westminster, where Westminster police and Carroll County sheriff's deputies joined the pursuit, along with a state police helicopter, police said.

The driver continued on West Main Street, where he rammed a patrol car driven by Trooper Timothy F. Zendgraft and later collided with another driven by Trooper Gary M. Masimore II, according to the charging documents. Neither officer was injured, police said.

The suspect ran into a home in the first block of W. George St., followed by troopers and deputies. He was apprehended about 10:15 p.m., police said.

His former girlfriend, who lives at the West George Street address, told police that Babstock did not have permission to use her car, according to charging documents.

Elisabeth Colleen Wagster said yesterday that Babstock does not live with her and their two sons, ages 2 1/2 years and 5 months, but sometimes stays with his mother in Eldersburg or with other people in the county.

"He does not live here. ... I have no car. ... I'm so angry," said Wagster, who said she is a nursing student at Carroll Community College.

She said she and her older son were traumatized by having Babstock push his way into their home. She said she and the toddler ran outside, where they saw dozens of armed police officers.

"I don't know why he brought them here," she said. "He scared me. He scared our children. He turned our neighborhood into something like a movie set."

Babstock had no visible injuries, Hart said, but was taken to Carroll Hospital Center as a precaution before being transported to the Westminster barracks.

"It's amazing nobody got hurt," Hart said.

Yesterday morning, state police and Hampstead police officers searched the town with a drug-detecting dog for items that were seen thrown from the vehicle during the chase, but they found nothing before the rain began, Hart said.

Babstock was convicted in 2000 on a drug-possession charge in Carroll County, according to court records. His license was suspended in October for nonpayment of child support, said Buel C. Young, a state Motor Vehicle Administration spokesman.

Sun researcher Jean Packard contributed to this article.

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