Suspect dies, officer hurt in fall after chase

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A suspect who led police on a high-speed chase in Allegheny and Butler counties has died, and a veteran Cranberry police officer is recovering from serious injuries.

Thomas Booth, 22, of Volant, Lawrence County, died at 10:53 a.m. today in UPMC Presbyterian, the Allegheny County Medical Examiner's Office said.

Mr. Booth had exited a car after police brought it to a stop on Interstate 79 in Butler County and jumped from an overpass, falling 22 feet to a roadway. Cranberry Police Cpl. Dan Hahn, a 21-year veteran, followed him off the overpass and also landed on the roadway.

State police today said the chase began around 11:30 p.m. Monday after a Sewickley Heights officer approached a vehicle stopped on Blackburn Road. Mr. Booth drove away and was pursued by the officer, whose name was not provided in a news release.

The pursuit covered 20 miles and involved five police departments. Jackson Township Police in Butler County put out stop sticks on I-79 northbound. Mr. Booth's tires deflated after hitting the sticks and he got out and ran, police said.

He attempted to escape by jumping from an overpass above Tollgate Road, falling to the road. "As a result of the fall he was incapacitated," the release said.

Cpl. Hahn was chasing Mr. Booth and also jumped from the overpass, according to township officials. They believe neither man was aware how high the bridge was.

Medical helicopters flew Mr. Booth to UPMC Presbyterian and the officer to Allegheny General Hospital.

The 47-year-old police officer received serious injuries to his neck and back and had back surgery today.

Jerry Andree, Cranberry's manager, said Cpl. Hahn "was doing exactly what we would expect him to do. He is an excellent officer." Cpl. Hahn has been recognized by township supervisors for zealous enforcement against aggressive drivers.

The news release said Mr. Booth was suspected of driving under the influence and charges are pending.

More details in tomorrow's Pittsburgh Post-Gazette.


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