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Police chase leads to charges

Driver crashes into dry cleaners; passenger allegedly found with meth

Police charged an Altoona man Wednesday for fleeing and drug possession, following a high-speed chase Feb. 12, which ended when the man crashed his vehicle into a dry cleaners, court documents stated.

Benjamen A. Otto, 45, was arraigned Thursday by Magisterial District Judge Matthew Dunio on multiple felony charges including eluding law enforcement, accidents involving injury while not licensed and possession of a controlled substance with intent to deliver, according to court documents.

About 1 a.m. Feb. 12, an Allegheny Township police officer noted Otto was driving along Route 764 with a canceled registration and suspended driver’s license.

When the officer tried to initiate a traffic stop, Otto allegedly increased his speed, according to court documents.

Traveling at speeds of up to 90 mph, Otto allegedly led police on a chase, during which he crossed a double-yellow line, drove through stop signs and red lights and turned off his headlights at one point, a criminal complaint states.

The chase ended after Otto’s vehicle struck a raised, concrete median, causing the truck to leave the roadway, strike a metal street light and “Wrong Way” sign before ultimately crashing into Stevenson’s Dry-Cleaners at 3528 Fifth Ave., police reported.

State police were the first to arrive on the scene, and Otto was already out of his vehicle and on the ground when Allegheny Township police arrived, court documents state.

Otto was accompanied by a female passenger, Nicole Weyandt, but police noted Otto confirmed he was driving.

At the scene, Otto apologized and complained of pain in his side, court documents state.

While Weyandt told police she advised Otto to stop, Otto said he fled because of outstanding warrants, police reported.

The pair were transported to UPMC Altoona, where emergency room staff reported they suspected Weyandt might be hiding drugs on her person, according to court documents.

UPMC police discovered multiple plastic bags containing suspected methamphetamine in Weyandt’s underwear, and later, they discovered additional meth in her purse, a criminal complaint stated.

Weyandt told police the meth was Otto’s, who said it was not, police reported.

Unable to post his $50,000 cash bail, Otto has been detained at the Blair County Prison, and a preliminary hearing is scheduled for March 4 with Dunio.

Mirror Staff Writer Ike Fredregill is at 814-946-7458.

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