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Driver Hits N.C. Officer, Leads Police on Pursuit

SPRING LAKE, N.C. -- A sailor from Virginia ran over a Spring Lake police officer and led lawmen a 20-mile chase at speeds up to 100 mph early Saturday, according to law enforcement.

Spring Lake Police Chief Troy McDuffie said the incident started in the early hours of Saturday when a Spring Lake officer tried to initiate a traffic stop in the area of Vass Road and North Bragg Boulevard. The driver sped away and got onto N.C. 87 north to Harnett County, McDuffie said.

Separately, officers from Fort Bragg, Spring Lake, the Highway Patrol and the Cumberland County and Harnett County sheriff's offices were running a drunk driving checkpoint on N.C. 87 near the Linden Oaks community, McDuffie said.

The fleeing driver stopped when he reached the checkpoint, McDuffie said, but when officers approached, he began driving again and struck Spring Lake Police Sgt. Carrol Rickard, he said.

"He sort of rolled off of the vehicle. He was not seriously hurt, he just has a few bumps and bruises," McDuffie said.

The driver then attempted to run down another officer, listed in court records as Jonathon Connor, McDuffie said.

Connor and a Fort Bragg officer fired their guns at the driver but did not hit him, McDuffie said.

The driver sped away and lawmen from Spring Lake, Highway Patrol and Harnett County chased after him.

Eventually the car crashed and caught fire, and officers pulled the driver from the car, McDuffie said.

Court papers say the driver was 24-year-old Peter James Dalessandro of Virginia Beach, Va. He was in jail in Fayetteville on Sunday with a bail of $10,300. He is in the Navy, McDuffie said.

Dalessandro is charged with reckless driving, felony fleeing to elude arrest in a motor vehicle and two counts of assault with a deadly weapon of a government official.

McClatchy-Tribune News Service