By MIKE DONOGHUE
Islander Staff Writer
HIGHGATE -- A man from the state of Georgia is facing federal and state charges after he absconded at the International Border at Highgate from U.S. Customs officers and later led police on a chase to Burlington before being arrested, authorities said.
Officials said Michael Wyler, 34, of St. Mary’s, Georgia was caught when the pursuit ended in the middle of a temporary tent city of protesters in Battery Park in Burlington next to the city police station.
State police lodged Wyler at the Northwest State Correctional Facility in St. Albans Town for lack of $50,000 bail for three state felony charges: attempting to elude, gross negligent operation and aggravated assault. Wyler also had a knife, but did not attempt to use it, police said.
It was unclear what federal charges Wyler would be facing. U.S. Customs and Border Protection promised a statement Saturday, but none had been forthcoming.
State Police Sgt. John Bruzzi had said troopers had to wait for federal officials to finish with Wyler on Saturday afternoon before he could be jailed.
Officials pieced together the following narrative:
Wyler had tried to enter Quebec, but was turned around by Canadian authorities Saturday morning. When Wyler got to the Highgate Port of Entry he absconded from the custody of Customs/Border Protection after being asked to undergo secondary inspection.
Bruzzi later spotted the Florida-registered silver car on U.S. 7 in St. Albans about 9:30 a.m. and attempted to pull it over, but a pursuit ensued.
The state police chase headed south along Interstate 89 with help by police from St. Albans City, Milton, Colchester, Winooski, South Burlington and Burlington, Chittenden County Sheriffs, Fish and Wildlife, and U.S. Border Patrol.
The car got off in South Burlington and headed east on Williston Road before turning around and heading west into Burlington on Main Street, going past the University of Vermont. At the bottom of Main Street the car took a right onto Battery Street and Wyler drove into Battery Park on a sidewalk and was taken into custody initially by South Burlington Police, who turned him over to state police.
Troopers impounded Wyler’s car and later towed it to the state police barracks in Williston so a full search could be conducted by federal authorities.
Bruzzi said due to the egregious driving and repeated failure to stop during the 48-minte chase, Wyler was arrested on charges of felony attempting to elude and felony gross negligent operation.
Also, due to intentionally swerving at police cruisers and almost striking an officer trying to put spike strips on the road to try to puncture his tires, Wyler is facing a third felony charge of aggravated assault, said Bruzzi, a patrol commander.
VSP and U.S. Customs and Border Protection are working together because there are both federal and state violations, Bruzzi said.
Wyler is due in Vermont Superior Court in St. Albans at 1 p.m. Monday.