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It doesn't pay to be the little guy: Chase occurs after driver grabs passenger and puts him in driver's seat

Jovan Michael Gagnon, 24, of rural Bagley has been charged in Becker County District Court with felony fleeing a peace officer in a motor vehicle, and misdemeanor fleeing a peace officer on foot.

According to court records, at 11:30 p.m. on Nov. 27 a deputy saw a northbound pickup truck on Richwood road with a burned-out headlight. He turned to follow and saw that it failed to stop at a stop sign at the intersection of Becker County roads 21 and 34.

The silver 2001 Dodge Ram went north on County Road 34 and the deputy followed it with emergency lights activated. The deputy saw the truck swerve wildly over into the oncoming traffic lane and then it kept speeding up and hitting the brakes when the deputy got close to it.

The truck went through a yard on Lynx Lane and the driver's door opened and closed, the driver then spun out on the driveway of the residence and the truck ended up in the ditch.

There were three men in the truck, and the driver, allegedly Gagnon, jumped out and ran off when the truck went into the ditch. He was not located and a warrant was issued for his arrest Nov. 30 by District Judge Jay Carlson.

The two who remained in the truck gave his name to police officers.

When the police pursuit began, Gagnon, smaller in stature, was allegedly grabbed and physically put in the driver's seat by the original driver, Percy Leonard French, 40, of White Earth. That's why the truck had swerved wildly and was all over the road: Gagnon didn't want to be the driver. The other two assumed Gagnon would stop and take the blame, but instead he allegedly led the officer on the chase.

French has been charged in Becker County District Court with two counts of felony DWI and one count of felony fleeing a peace officer in a motor vehicle. He had an active warrant for his arrest and allegedly admitted to being high on meth and heroin. He refused field testing, and a blood sample was sent to the Minnesota Bureau of Criminal Apprehension lab for testing.

French appeared in court Nov. 29 before District Judge Joe Evans, who set cash bail at $2,000 or bond at $20,000, with conditions, or bond at $40,000 without standard conditions of release.

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