SALEM — A judge found that Salem police had enough evidence to charge a Pennsylvania man who allegedly stole a police cruiser and endangered the public during a two-state pursuit.
A lawyer for Robert Zygarowski, 52, of Elwood City, Pa., argued in court on Thursday that police showed no evidence to support felony reckless conduct and criminal restraint charges.
“There wasn’t anybody placed in danger or potential danger,” public defender Deanna Campbell said.
Judge John Korbey disagreed and sent the case to superior court after testimony Thursday in 10th Circuit Court, Salem Division.
Zygarowski is also facing lesser charges in New Hampshire and felonies in Massachusetts for allegedly leading police on a high-speed pursuit through both states on June 21.
Zygarowski briefly got control of a Salem police cruiser and drove it a few blocks while the pursuit came to a halt along Essex Street in Lawrence, Mass., police said.
Just before the chase, Zygarowski was allegedly speeding northbound on Route 28 in Salem about 12:40 a.m. before getting pulled over by Salem police Officer Adam Pearson. Zygarowski was confrontational with the officer and hit with a Taser before fleeing in his car, according to court testimony.
Police prosecutor Jason Grosky called one witness on Thursday, saying that the testimony provided by the officer was enough to support the charges.
Officer Steven McPherson testified that he recalled hearing Pearson’s radio plea for assistance from other officers, saying, “I’ve been assaulted. I deployed a Taser. It had no effect.”
McPherson responded and ended up apprehending Zygarowski as he was walking along a rail trail near South Broadway. The arrest happened about two hours after the vehicle stop.
During the pursuit, Zygarowski sped along Route 97 east into Haverhill, Mass., and cut through its downtown before getting on Interstate 495 and driving to Lawrence, according to McPherson’s testimony.
He said Pearson was alone with Zygarowski when his car broke down on Essex Street. The car Zygarowski was driving lost its left rear tire. Zygarowski confronted Pearson while he was alone, McPherson said.
“There were no other officers from any other agencies there because of the speed. They couldn’t keep up,” McPherson said.
Pearson reported over the police radio, “He’s getting in my cruiser. He’s getting in my cruiser. I have him at gunpoint,” according to McPherson.
Area police officers, which included state and local agencies from New Hampshire and Massachusetts, soon converged in groups along the state line when they heard Zygarowski might have taken a cab ride back north. A store clerk told police that Zygarowski walked into a gas station along Route 28 and said, “He just stole an officer’s firearm and he will shoot it out with law enforcement,” McPherson said.
McPherson was patrolling an area near Kelly Road and put his spotlight on an area where he saw movement along the railroad bed.
“I happened to see movement on my left side, so I turned my spotlight on,” he said. Zygarowski was smoking a cigarette and refused to go to the ground when ordered at gunpoint.
“He said, “(expletive) you. I am not getting on the ground,” McPherson said. “I put my weapon away and took him into custody.”
Zygarowski remained held on bail Thursday at the Rockingham County jail.