Car chase leads to crash, charges

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BENNINGTON — A man with Florida ties who allegedly led Bennington police on a high-speed pursuit in a stolen SUV on Monday morning before crashing on Sawmill Road is being held on $15,000 bail.

Charles Dacoda Sweet, 21, faces multiple felony charges after the car chase that lasted several miles before 7 a.m., at times reaching speeds double the posted limit. The resulting crash sent his injured female passenger to the hospital, police said.

"With the lights and siren activated, Sweet failed to stop for my emergency vehicle," Bennington police Officer Daniel Ferrara wrote in a court affidavit. "Instead, Sweet was traveling at speeds unsafe and imprudent around blind curves, hills, as well as passing vehicles, school buses and pedestrian traffic."

Sweet, who court documents list as being homeless with past addresses in Cape Coral, Fla., was driving an SUV that was reported stolen in that city last month, police said.

Sweet pleaded not guilty in Vermont Superior Court Bennington Criminal Division on Monday to felony eluding law enforcement through negligent operation, gross negligent operation with serious injury resulting, and aggravated operation without owner consent, and misdemeanor reckless endangerment. He will return to court Oct. 4.

Ferrara wrote that he was on radar detail on South Stream Road near Colville Road at about 6:38 a.m. when he clocked a northbound SUV at 51 mph in a 30 mph zone. When he tried to pull the vehicle over near the Bennington Fish Hatchery, the SUV accelerated and attempted to pass another vehicle, almost colliding head-on with another.

The SUV continued north onto Morgan Street at about 60 mph. It turned east onto Main Street (Route 9) before turning south onto Beech Street, when it accelerated to 70 mph. The driver continued south and eventually turned onto South Stream Road, where it reached speeds of 80 mph. According to the affidavit, the driver was not using turn signals or stopping at stop signs, at times crossing center double solid lines. The driver eventually turned onto Sawmill Road, where the vehicle slid off the eastbound side of the roadway and collided with trees.

Police identified the driver as Sweet and placed him in handcuffs.

The SUV's front seat passenger, Amanda M. Thomas, 31, allegedly told police that she told Sweet to stop, but he replied to her that he could not stop, and did not say why.

Thomas was taken to Southwestern Vermont Medical Center by Bennington Rescue Squad. According to the affidavit, Thomas suffered a broken nose, concussion and an injury to her left shoulder as a result of the crash.

The SUV, a 2003 Mercury Mountaineer, was reported stolen in Cape Coral, Fla. on Aug. 25, according to court documents. It was taken along with a 40-inch TV, DVD player and drill tool.

Sweet does not have a criminal history in Vermont, but does in Florida, including a charge of resisting arrest in July.

Judge David A. Howard ordered Sweet held at $15,000 bail at his arraignment. As of Tuesday evening, Sweet was still listed as detained at Marble Valley Regional Correctional Facility, Rutland.

Reach staff writer Edward Damon at 802-447-7567, ext. 111 or @edamon_banner.

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