A Concord man who drove the wrong way on the freeway, and fled from authorities after causing a traffic collision in Berkeley on May 18, was arrested early Wednesday morning.
The California Highway Patrol arrested Jerome Wingert, 32, at around 3:10 a.m. at a Berkeley hotel. The arrest was made by CHP officers with assistance from Berkeley police, according to CHP spokesman Officer Clayton Nett. The exact location of the arrest was not available.
Wingert was arrested on suspicion of evading arrest in a reckless manner, auto theft and driving the wrong way on a freeway, along with a warrant for violating parole.
Wingert has been involved in at least two other high-profile pursuits with Bay Area law enforcement agencies over the past seven years, according to media reports.
The recent chase began on Sunday, May 17, in Concord when police there spotted Wingert in a stolen Honda Accord at 11:30 p.m., according to Officer Sean Wilkenfeld, a CHP spokesman. The driver evaded officers, traveling in the wrong direction on the freeway for about 30 miles, before he crashed in North Berkeley, injuring Zaya Yaro, 45, from Santa Clara, the occupant of a vehicle he caused to overturn on Hearst Avenue.
Authorities spent hours, with the help of a helicopter and police canine, trying to find the driver in the crash, but he managed to avoid capture. The California Highway Patrol continued to investigate the incident and ultimately identified Wingert as the driver of the stolen Honda.
According to police scanner recordings, Wingert called the CHP as officers followed him, and told them to call off the pursuit. He told dispatchers he did not want to go back to jail.
It wasn’t his first run-in with the law, according to media reports. In 2008 and 2011, Wingert made headlines after high-profile chases in Lafayette and Martinez that culminated in his arrest.
In 2008, he allegedly crashed a stolen vehicle in Lafayette, then jumped onto the roof of a passing SUV to try to get away from officers. He managed to cling to the roof for several minutes before an officer stopped the vehicle and took Wingert into custody on suspicion of felony evading, carrying a loaded firearm and possession of stolen property, according to the Contra Costa Times. Authorities said, in that incident, Wingert also took to the freeway, driving against traffic to try to escape capture.
Three years later, Wingert was again in the news, described as “a menace … wanted by several agencies for several things” by the Contra Costa County sheriff’s department. That chase, in June 2011, involved four law enforcement agencies who worked together to try to take Wingert into custody on suspicion of attempted robbery. Wingert led officers on a “wild chase through two cities and a freeway” after they tried to stop him in Concord, according to media reports.
At one point in the 2011 chase, Wingert drove in the wrong direction on Highway 4. Police ultimately arrested him and another man in Martinez after he was forced to come to a stop after exiting the freeway. According to Martinez Patch, “Both men asked for medical assistance shortly after being stopped … claiming that they were suffering from anxiety attacks.” But the sheriff’s department said those claims proved to have been unfounded.
The men were arrested in that case on suspicion of being parolees at large, robbery, burglary, fleeing and resisting arrest, according to the Martinez News-Gazette. A reporter for that paper wrote a firsthand account of nearly colliding with Wingert as he barreled toward her on the freeway while fleeing from police at an estimated 120 mph.
According to his Facebook page, Wingert has been trying to get his life together and help raise his young daughter. After being detained by authorities “after a case of mistaken identity” in June 2014, he wrote that he was glad to be home. One friend replied that Wingert had been “doing so good” and was relieved to learn he was not actually wanted by the law.
Wingert’s younger brother, Solomon — a U.S. Marine Corps corporal — was killed in Southern California in 2006 when he pushed a friend out of the way of a speeding vehicle and was fatally injured. He was 21 years old.
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