WOONSOCKET — The target of multiple court warrants, a Cumberland man was ordered held without bail at the state prison Monday, hours after leading police from two communities on a high-speed motor vehicle chase that ended – with a struggle – in front of his own home.
Police said 34-year-old Justin Rocha, of 27 Forest View Drive, was operating his mother’s red Pontiac on Cumberland Hill Road about 1 a.m., when the vehicle drew their attention because the rear plate was partially obstructed.
Officers Evan Puopolo and Robert Frye, doubled up in the same cruiser, attempted to pull the red Grand Prix over near the Dionne Track– and for a moment, it seemed as if Rocha intended to stop. The vehicle slowed to a near halt, but accelerated suddenly as the officers pulled behind it.
At the intersection of Mendon Road, Rocha again gave officers the impression he intended to stop – this time at a traffic signal – at which point the officers exited their cruiser and approached the Grand Prix with their sidearms drawn. Once again, however, Rocha allegedly hit the gas, speeding through a red light in the direction of neighboring Cumberland.
Because traffic was relatively light at that hour, the officers were cleared by their supervisor at headquarters, Lt. Ronald Marcos, to continue the chase. Though Rocha occasionally slowed, the officers pursued the vehicle southbound on Mendon Road at speeds up to 55 mph in areas marked as a 25 mph zone, the officers said.
“Throughout the pursuit, I had my lights and sirens activated and multiple cars pulled over on the side of the road to allow us to pass,” Puopolo observed in his report. “During this, Justin passed these cars also.”
With additional Woonsocket and Cumberland cruisers now having joined the pursuit, Rocha turned into a plat and ended up where police thought he might be headed – his own home. After stopping the vehicle in front of his residence, police said Rocha exited the vehicle and tried to make a run for it.
Puopolo and Frye quickly caught up to him and tackled him to the ground, wrestling him into handcuffs without further incident.
Rocha was wanted on District Court warrants for failure to appear on three open 2018 cases, including Smithfield police charges of receiving stolen goods and two charges of third-offense driving on a suspended license – one lodged against him by the East Providence Police Department and the other by the North Smithfield Police Department, according to the judiciary’s database.
During a preliminary appearance in District Court on Monday, Rocha was declared a bail violator on those cases. He was ordered held at the Adult Correctional Institutions at least until April 26 for a violation hearing.
He also faces several new charges stemming from his alleged attempt to elude officers yesterday morning, including first-offense high-speed pursuit, resisting arrest and yet another charge of third-offense driving on a suspended license. Sixth District Court Judge Stephen Isherwood set bail on those infractions at $5,000 with surety.
Follow Russ Olivo on Twitter @russolivo