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Crash with New Port Richey police cruiser snags rogue biker

Editor's note: This original story misidentified an injured motorcyclist, Mitchell Christmas, 31. He says the man identified below, 50-year-old Mitchell Christmas, is his father. The younger Christmas is interviewed from his hospital bed in this follow-up story.

NEW PORT RICHEY — The police were after a man on a motorcycle.

More than once last week, officers had spotted the rogue rider in various traffic violations. When they pursued him, he fled.

No high-speed chases ensued, said police Capt. Jeff Harrington. Police try to avoid high-speed pursuits that might endanger other drivers. But officers in the New Port Richey department's traffic unit were on high lookout for this rider.

Just before 10 p.m. Saturday, the motorcycle turned up again.

By then, Harrington said, officers had investigated and gathered enough information to have probable cause for an arrest. So the officer who spotted the Yamaha heading east on Main Street turned on his camera, followed for a short while and then switched on his overhead lights. Again, the rider took off, barrelling through red lights along downtown's main drag.

At Madison Street, according to the Florida Highway Patrol, the light was green. But at that intersection, another officer in his police cruiser made a left off Madison just as the fleeing motorcycle approached. They crashed head-on, the FHP said.

The motorcyclist was thrown from his bike, landing more than 100 feet away. He and the police officer, Chris Mellecker, were checked at local hospitals and released. Charges are pending, FHP said. The patrol identified the motorcyclist as Mitchell L. Christmas, of 12012 Holbrook Lane in Hudson. Records show Christmas, 50, has been arrested several times before in Pasco, on charges including driving without a valid license, resisting an officer, burglary, battery and multiple incidents of DUI.

Mellecker has returned to regular duty, Harrington said.

Molly Moorhead can be reached at moorhead@sptimes.com or (727) 869-6245.

Crash with New Port Richey police cruiser snags rogue biker 01/19/09 [Last modified: Thursday, January 22, 2009 9:13am]

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