MOUNT VERNON — The man who allegedly pointed a gun at a Fredericktown police officer in June was indicted by a grand jury this week on four felony charges.
Now, local law enforcement officials are searching for his counterpart – the woman who allegedly rode shotgun during the incident.
Knox County Prosecutor Chip McConville said Thursday that detectives from the Knox County Sheriff's Office have identified the woman who rode in the passenger's seat on June 17, when Darren Price, 38, of Howard, was pulled over by Fredericktown Patrolman Josh Jones for an apparent registration violation.
The traffic stop turned into Knox County's first police shooting since 2014, as Price appeared to pull a gun on Jones and the officer fired. Price then sped off, and Jones followed. The chase lasted nearly 10 minutes and reached 100 miles per hour, as Jones followed Price through Knox County's northern backroads.
Price eventually lost Jones near the Richland County line and the pursuit was terminated. The suspect's vehicle – a maroon Pontiac sedan – was found less than two hours later near Butler.
Price remained at-large for a week. Local and state authorities worked to locate and apprehend him in a North Liberty residence on June 24. He has since been held at the Knox County Jail.
The female passenger, however, has eluded authorities and remains at-large. While McConville would not disclose her identity Thursday, he did say she "has multiple outstanding felony warrants," which are tied to pending drug charges.
"Knox County Sheriff’s detectives and others are very busy looking for that person right now," McConville said.
It's unknown whether she will face any additional charges upon her arrest.
Grand jury clears Jones, indicts Price
A Knox County grand jury met in special session Tuesday to consider the evidence in this case.
Grand juries are made up of nine members of the voting public (plus five alternates), randomly selected by the Knox County Court of Common Pleas. Prospective jurors with personal ties to the individual (or individuals) being investigated are dismissed, as is the case with jury selection in a criminal trial.
The grand jury is an accusatory body – it does not determine guilt or innocence. Its role is simply to determine whether there is sufficient evidence to make a person face criminal charges.
In this case, the grand jury Tuesday heard evidence that was gathered by the Ohio Bureau of Criminal Investigation following the shooting, with assistance from the Knox County Sheriff's Office and Fredericktown Police Department. The evidence was presented by the Knox County Prosecutor's Office.
McConville declined to comment on the specific evidence presented Tuesday. Grand jury sessions are held privately, behind closed doors, to protect the reputation of individuals being investigated who are not yet indicted.
He did note that "all of the things that are available as public records were presented to the grand jury, in addition to other evidence that was collected as part of the Knox County Sheriff’s Office investigation."
While McConville acknowledged that his office had the final say in what was shown to the grand jury Tuesday, and how it was presented, he claimed the process was thorough.
Most grand jury presentations for complex criminal cases take 30 to 45 minutes, he said. This one took two hours.
“I will tell you, we did a very full presentation of pretty much all the evidence we had," McConville said.
"I realize that police use-of-force is a very important and volatile topic these days, and I want to be able to talk to people in the community and say, ‘Hey, we had a grand jury review this.’ Because, while ultimately the decision to charge someone rests with the prosecutor, having citizens review this builds trust in the system.”
After reviewing the evidence Tuesday, the grand jury found Jones' use of deadly force during the incident was justified as self-defense, McConville said, which cleared the officer of any wrongdoing.
The legal standard for reasonable self-defense in this case was the same as it would be for any citizen, McConville explained – police officer or not.
“The test for whether or not it’s reasonable self-defense for a police officer is no different than the test for self-defense for anybody else," he said. "Someone has to believe they are being confronted with lethal force, and it is about to be used on them, and the only means they have to escape that is to use lethal force themselves.”
Jones returned to work Friday, Fredericktown Police Chief Kyle Johnson said, after a FPD use-of-force review board determined Wednesday he had not committed any policy violations during the incident.
Price, meanwhile, was indicted by the grand jury on four counts: having weapons under disability, a third-degree felony; failure to obey the order or signal of a police officer, a third-degree felony; improper handling of firearms in a motor vehicle, a fourth-degree felony; and tampering with evidence, a third-degree felony.
Price was convicted of a third-degree drug-related felony in Colorado in 2018, which prevented him from legally possessing a firearm, according to court documents. He also allegedly discarded the firearm the day after the shooting, although McConville could not comment on whether the .25-caliber pistol had been recovered.
Price was arraigned Wednesday in the Knox County Court of Common Pleas, where he pleaded not guilty. Judge Richard Wetzel set his bond at $500,000.
McConville said the investigation into Price, as well as his female counterpart that day, is ongoing. New evidence could mean additional charges down the road.
As it stands right now, if Price is convicted, he could face up to three years in prison on the third-degree felony charges and up to 18 months on the fourth-degree charge.
"By law, the fleeing-and-eluding must be run consecutive to any other sentence," McConville said.
It remains unclear if Price fired any bullets that day, or if his weapon was loaded. McConville did confirm that Jones fired seven shots from his duty-issued pistol.
Price was ultimately located through a joint effort between the Knox County Sheriff's Office, the Mount Vernon Police Department, and the U.S. Marshals Service's Southern Ohio Fugitive Apprehension Strike Team.
According to McConville, the arrest "pretty much went peacefully."
“He was picked up at the house of a relative and he was taken into custody …" McConville said. "The relatives did it in such a way that it did not go in a violent fashion, so I give them credit for that.”
Detectives reported that Price did not appear injured upon his arrest, McConville said. Jones also came away from the shooting incident unscathed, according to Johnson.
It's unclear how long Price stayed at his relative's house leading up to the arrest. It's also unclear how he managed to remain at-large for nearly a week, given the proximity between Butler (where his vehicle was located) and North Liberty (where he was ultimately apprehended).
While McConville couldn't say definitively whether or not charges would be pressed against Price's relatives, he implied the possibility was unlikely.
“I don’t have a good feeling (charges will be pressed)," McConville said. "I haven’t read any reports on how long he was with them or that sort of thing, but it seems like there was not significant liability for them here in terms of obstructing justice for hiding a fleeing felon.”