He escaped a police chase, but left behind one important clue, authorities say

A State College man faces charges after reportedly leading police on a chase through the borough.

According to the criminal complaint filed by State College police, at about 12:20 a.m. Jan. 7 an officer was sitting in the Westerly Parkway shopping plaza when he heard tires squealing and a crashing noise from the west side of the lot. The officer observed a car coming down off a curb before fishtailing, striking an object and accelerating onto Westerly Parkway.

Police said the officer followed the vehicle west onto Westerly Parkway, and the driver turned onto Sparks Street and then West Hamilton Avenue, accelerating to about 50 mph.

The driver turned left back onto Westerly without stopping for the posted stop sign, police said, then turned right onto Saxton Drive before accelerating again. The officer followed the vehicle onto Saxton Drive briefly before terminating the pursuit.

After ending pursuit, the officer observed where the vehicle appeared to have slid off the roadway along the 1000 block of Saxton, jumped a curb and crossed the sidewalk before returning to the roadway. Several patrol units checked the surrounding area, but the vehicle was not located.

The officer returned to the shopping plaza and spoke with Weis Markets employees who said a male had been in the store but left without paying for about $13 in food items. Through the investigation, it was learned the man had entered a Weis Preferred Shoppers Club membership card during the transaction.

The owner of the card was identified as a State College resident, police said. A surveillance photo of the man was recognized as Nicholson D. Harner, 22.

The officer went to the Harner residence, where Harner’s brother identified him in the photo, police said. The brother allegedly stated Harner had told him that a police car tried to stop him the previous night but he didn’t stop.

Harner reported to the State College police station that evening for an interview, police said, and allegedly stated he had no idea that he had left Weis without paying. He told police he knew the patrol car behind him was trying to pull him over, but instead he panicked.

Harner was arraigned via summons Tuesday by District Judge Carmine Prestia, according to court documents, and charged with a misdemeanor count of fleeing police with other summary traffic charges. A preliminary hearing is scheduled for March 8.

Jeremy Hartley: 814-231-4616, @JJHartleyNews