Pedestrian airlifted from Salem hit-and-run that resulted in high-speed chase

MARION COUNTY — A hit-and-run accident involving a pedestrian Tuesday afternoon in Salem resulted in a high-speed police chase across Marion County and ended with the 58-year-old suspect crashing his vehicle on the west-side of Centralia nearly 30 minutes later.

Vehicle involved in high-speed chase following hit-and-run with pedestrian (Credit: Brad Chappell)
Vehicle involved in high-speed chase following hit-and-run with pedestrian
(Credit: Brad Chappell)

According to Salem Deputy Police Chief Susan Miller, the driver of the vehicle — now identified as Jeffrey Johnston, of Champaign — allegedly struck 63-year-old Ernie Whipple Sr., as Whipple was walking across South Broadway at Mitchell Street in Salem. Miller says Whipple was ultimately airlifted to a St. Louis area hospital for treatment of his injuries. He was last listed in stable condition.

Johnston reportedly fled from the scene but witness information on the vehicle was given out to patrolling agencies, and a Secretary of State officer spotted the vehicle and attempted a traffic stop.

Johnston, however, again fled, leading the SOS officer and Marion County Sheriff’s deputies on a chase that wound westbound down Green Street Road from Zion Hill Road. Stops were attempted at multiple locations, with the driver reportedly attempting to strike one deputy’s squad car and avoiding a roadblock on Odin Road.

The pursuit continued in Central City, with the driver speeding passed the park at Morrison and Green.

When Johnston eventually reached Elm Street in Centralia, officers were forced to shut down northbound traffic as the suspect reportedly drove southbound into northbound traffic on the one-way street, then nearly striking a civilian vehicle near Burger King at McCord and Poplar Street in Centralia.

Multiple agencies were involved in the pursuit, that reached speeds in excess of 100 mph at Noltings Road and Highway 161, before a Centralia police sergeant used a “pit maneuver” on Highway 161 near Shattuc Road in Clinton County to spin out the suspect’s vehicle, causing it to crash. No injuries were reported and Johnston was taken into custody after a brief foot chase.

Johnston reportedly fought and resisted being handcuffed and continued to be uncooperative. He was taken to the hospital for a blood draw, prior to being transported to the Marion County Jail, where Miller says he was subsequently questioned by multiple agencies.

Johnston remains in the Marion County Jail and is expected to be charged with multiple crimes in Marion County Court Wednesday morning.