Cazenovia and Morrisville colleges issued a lock-down notice to students in the early morning hours of Friday, Aug. 31, as an Oneida man reportedly led Madison County Sheriff’s Deputies on a chase through Madison and Onondaga counties.
According to investigators, Derik R. Churchill, 26, led police on a pursuit that started at approximately 9:50 p.m. in Madison County near Munnsville, about one hour after Sheriff’s deputies served an order of protection against the suspect, when he arrived at the protected party’s residence in the town of Stockbridge.
Churchill allegedly sent threatening text messages to the protected party, prompting a call to 911. As deputies responded, additional information was brought forth leading them to believe Churchill was armed with an automatic weapon and with night vision equipment. It was reported the protected party also received text messaged from Churchill which threatened responding officers.
An alert was issued to area law enforcement agencies as Churchill’s 2000 silver Dodge Caravan was spotted in Morrisville. Cazenovia Police reported seeing Churchill in the village, and he was then tracked to New Woodstock.
The chase continued throughout the southern portion of the county, into the Onondaga County Town of Pompey and back into Madison County through Chittenango. The chase, which spanned seven townships in two counties, ended when suspect was apprehended just before 1:30 a.m. on the Cazenovia College campus.
“The pursuit forced SUNY Morrisville and Cazenovia College to lock down their campuses for safety reasons, based on decisions made at both colleges, as the pursuit continued throughout Madison County,” stated Madison County Undersheriff John Ball in a press release. “Churchill was arraigned a short time ago in the Town of Stockbridge Court before Judge Daniel Vineall on initial charges of first-degree criminal contempt, a Class E felony and second-degree aggravated harassment, a Class A misdemeanor. Several other charges are forthcoming.”
No firearms were found in the suspect’s possession upon being taken in custody.
Police agencies involved in this incident, in addition to the County Sheriff’s office, were City of Oneida Police, New York State Police, SUNY Morrisville Police, Cazenovia Police, Chittenango Police, Canastota Police, Onondaga County Sheriff’s Office and Cazenovia College Campus Safety.
Several attempts to disable the vehicle using stop sticks were made during the pursuit, but the suspect was able to evade efforts until he hit stop sticks that were deployed in the village of Cazenovia by Sergeant Karen Zaleski and Officer Jim Kazmirski.
“It was a group effort. We were all integrally involved, working alongside the state police and sheriff’s department,” said Cazenovia Police Chief Michael Hayes. “Stop strips had been deployed on two other occasions, but the suspect was able to avoid them. While in Cazenovia, Sergeant Zaleski and Officer Kazmirski were able to successfully deploy the stop sticks, which brought the pursuit to a conclusion within a few minutes.”
At the time, area college students and local residents took to social media, posting on Facebook and Twitter reports of helicopters circling overhead using searchlights.
The campus lockdown was lifted and both colleges returned to normal operations around 3 a.m.
Ball said during the chase, the suspect rammed a Madison County Sheriff’s vehicle with his van and damaged several pieces of property. The deputy who was rammed was not injured and the deputy’s vehicle remained in pursuit, following the suspect.
Churchill has been remanded to the Madison County Jail on $1,000 cash bail or $5,000 bond.
Updated will be posted to cazenoviarepublican.com as more details are released.
Pierce Smith is editor of the Cazenovia Republican. He can be reached at 434-8889 ext. 338 or firstname.lastname@example.org.