WESTERLY — A Groton man turned himself in to Westerly officers last week, telling them he "wanted to make things right" for a car chase that occurred 16 years ago.
Westerly police said that the man, 47-year-old Shawn E. O'Leary, walked into the police station just before 11 a.m. Friday and told dispatchers he believed he was still wanted in connection with the chase on July 31, 2003. The police verified the active warrant and took him into custody.
O'Leary was charged with reckless driving by leading police on a high-speed pursuit, a misdemeanor, and driving when license or registration is suspended or revoked. He was released on a promise to appear for arraignment in Fourth Division District Court.
"We had applied for a warrant many years ago and 16 years later, he comes in and says that he wanted to make things right. He told us he knew he was wanted and it was time to amend his prior mistakes," said Westerly Police Chief Shawn Lacey.
According to a police report, the chase began after Westerly police received multiple reports of an erratic Corvette on Route 78. An officer spotted O'Leary at the intersection of Route 78 and Route 1. O'Leary pulled over, but when the officer got out of his cruiser, he took off at high speed, the police said.
The police report said officers pursued O'Leary west on Route 1 and through several traffic lights. The Corvette turned suddenly at Tower Street and proceeded at high speed, swerved onto a sidewalk, and damaged a sign. O'Leary took several turns and was able to elude officers, but not before they had obtained his registration information and a surveillance photo. The chase was called off in the interest of public safety.
At 9 a.m. the next morning, the Corvette was found behind the Tower Street School with heavy damage, including two blown tires. The keys had been left inside, and Budweiser bottles were found in and around the car, the police said.
The car was impounded but never claimed, Lacey said, and police obtained a warrant but were unable to locate O'Leary. Lacey said it wasn't clear why O'Leary had had a change of heart. "He just seemed to indicate that he felt it was time," he said.