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Driver in Decatur police chase gets 5 years in prison on DUI, weapons charges

Driver in Decatur police chase gets 5 years in prison on DUI, weapons charges

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DECATUR — The driver who led former Macon County Sheriff Howard Buffett on a high-speed chase through Decatur before crashing his getaway car and injuring two passengers was sentenced to a total of five years in prison Monday.

Emmanuel M. Dunklin got two years after pleading guilty to charges of aggravated driving under the influence of drugs in a crash involving bodily harm and aggravated fleeing and eluding. He received a second two-year sentence on the fleeing and eluding charge, but it was ordered to run concurrent with the first.

And, in an unrelated case, Dunklin was sentenced to a further three years in prison after pleading guilty to being a felon in possession of a weapon. Macon County Circuit Court Judge Jeffrey Geisler ordered that three-year sentence to run consecutive to the first two-year DUI sentence, bringing the total imprisonment to five years.

Buffett, the philanthropist who served as interim sheriff from September of 2017 until Dec. 1, 2018, was on patrol Oct. 31, 2017, when he spotted a man wanted on a felony warrant sitting in Dunklin’s SUV, a sworn affidavit said. Dunklin sped away in his SUV at 6:15 p.m, pursued by Buffett and an accompanying sheriff’s office detective, Matt Whetstone.

In earlier court testimony, Whetstone described Dunklin’s car running red lights and changing lanes erratically as he was pursued by Buffett, who had his squad car’s lights and sirens activated. Whetstone said Dunklin had just run a red light at Franklin and William streets as he fled north on U.S. 51 when his vehicle was broadsided by an eastbound car.

One passenger in Dunklin’s vehicle suffered a brain bleed, according to police reports at the time, and another male passenger suffered a fractured pelvis.

Whetstone described Dunklin after the crash as appearing “confused and disorientated” with dilated pupils. Whetstone said police concluded Dunklin was under the influence of the methamphetamine he had confessed to using the night before the accident. Whetstone said Dunklin had taken enough of the drug that he was “incapable” of driving safely.

Dunklin’s case had been headed for jury trial but, in plea deals negotiated by his attorneys Chris Amero and public defender Scott Rueter, one additional DUI charge, two aggravated fleeing charges and a charge of causing an accident involving involving injury were dismissed.

In addition to the prison time for his role in the crash, Dunklin was ordered to pay restitution of damages amounting to more than $30,000. He was also fined $750 and ordered to pay a $100 trauma center fund fee and a $150 lab fee.

The unlawful use of a weapon charge stemmed from a traffic stop in on Oct. 11, 2018, when police said they found a handgun under the passenger seat of a car where Dunklin had been sitting. As a previously convicted felon, he is not allowed to possess firearms.

Contact Tony Reid at (217) 421-7977. Follow him on Twitter: @TonyJReid


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