William F. Birchard

William F. Birchard

A Titusville-area man will serve up to six years in state prison for leading police in three separate high-speed car chases earlier this year.

William F. Birchard Jr., 41, was sentenced Thursday in Crawford County Court of Common Pleas by Judge John Spataro to a total of two to six years for leading Titusville Police Department on chases on Jan. 28, March 12 and March 19.

Birchard entered guilty pleas in county court in September for fleeing police in each of those cases as part of a plea agreement with the Crawford County District Attorney’s Office.

Birchard pleaded guilty to a third-degree felony count of fleeing police and a summary count of driving without a license in the Jan. 28 case; a third-degree felony count of fleeing police and a summary count of driving without a license in the March 19 case; and a second-degree misdemeanor count of fleeing police in the March 12 case.

Birchard was sentenced to serve one to three years in state prison on each of the Jan. 28 and March 19 cases with those sentences to be served one after the other. Spataro also sentenced Birchard to nine months to two years for the March 12 case, but that sentence will be served at the same time as Birchard's sentence in the March 19 case.

Birchard also was ordered to pay a total of $1,300 in fines plus court costs.

In the Jan. 28 case, one of the Titusville police officers involved in that pursuit fired twice at the sport utility vehicle that Birchard was driving, but Birchard wasn’t injured.

An investigation into the officer-involved shooting by Pennsylvania State Police at Corry and the Crawford County District Attorney’s Office found no wrongdoing by Titusville police.

The finding was based on Birchard putting the SUV in reverse and speeding back toward two Titusville officers before making a U-turn, according to the investigation. Titusville police got in front of the SUV and had stopped it momentarily along Route 8 near Bog Hollow Road with one officer getting out of the patrol car and walking back toward the SUV when Birchard began a high-speed reverse toward police.

The officer-involved shooting investigation found the officer was justified in firing on Birchard. The Titusville officer resigned from the department March 11 after an internal Titusville Police Department investigation found the officer violated department procedures and protocols. 

Keith Gushard can be reached at 724-6370 or by email at kgushard@meadvilletribune.com.

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