DECATUR — The driver who fled from Macon County Sheriff Howard Buffett and crashed, causing serious injuries, appeared in court Wednesday, pleading not guilty to aggravated driving under the influence of drugs.
Emmanuel Dunklin, 33, was under the influence of methamphetamine and not fit to drive, according to Macon County Sheriff’s Office detective Matt Whetstone, who testified on Wednesday.
The detective was riding with Buffett, who was appointed sheriff Sept. 15, during the Oct. 31 crash, which happened in downtown Decatur. Whetstone said he chased down Dunklin and arrested him after he fled on foot from the wreck.
Dunklin pleaded not guilty to two counts of aggravated driving under the influence of drugs, a Class 4 felony; three counts of aggravated fleeing or attempting to elude police, a Class 4 felony; and one count of leaving the scene of an injury accident, a Class A misdemeanor.
Judge Phoebe S. Bowers found probable cause to arraign Dunklin on all charges. Dunklin, who is being held in the Macon County Jail without bond, had a pretrial hearing scheduled for Dec. 26.
The court earlier was told that two adult passengers in Dunklin’s vehicle suffered severe injuries in the crash: one had a brain bleed and the other suffereda fractured pelvis. Dunklin was also hurt, but not seriously.
Under questioning from Macon County State’s Attorney Jay Scott, Whetstone said the vehicle chase began about 6:15 p.m when he and Buffett spotted a man wanted on felony warrant sitting in Dunklin’s SUV at a gas station on West 1st Drive.
Whetstone said the vehicle fled, and he and Buffett pursued, with Buffett turning on the squad car’s emergency lights. Running a red light and changing lanes erratically, Whetstone said Dunklin fled north on Franklin Street until running another red light at East William Street, where Dunklin’s vehicle was broadsided by a car heading east. One person in the passenger car was also injured in the crash.
When Dunklin was interviewed later at the hospital, Whetstone said he appeared “confused and disorientated” with dilated pupils, and it was concluded he was under the influence of meth, which he said he had used the day before.
“Based on these observations, did officers have the opinion he was under the influence of drugs at the time (of the crash)?” Scott asked Whetstone.
“Yes,” the detective testified.
“To the point where it would render him incapable of driving safely?” Scott sadked.
“Correct,” Whetstone replied.