Police Officer Injured in Chase Through Woods

Brooklyn man is held on felony charge
Paul Freckleton, who lead police on a chase on Friday that ended with a Taser, was led out of East Hampton Town Justice Court on Saturday. T. E. McMorrow

Through the combined efforts of officers from East Hampton Village and Town, a Brooklyn man was arrested Friday afternoon following a chase through the woods near Georgica Pond. The town officer, who suffered a knee injury during the pursuit, finally stopped the fleeing man by discharging his Taser, police said. 

Paul Freckleton, 25, was first stopped by the village officer, as he rode his motorcycle near Georgica restaurant, where he is employed as a cook. He faces a felony charge of destroying the motorcycle's vehicle identification number.

“One of our officers made a stop for passing on the right,” said Detective Lt. Anthony Long of the village force. Mr. Freckleton had passed several vehicles, he said, while riding on the shoulder of Montauk Highway in an effort to get past a line of stalled traffic headed east for the weekend. 

The officer pulled Mr. Freckleton over on a sandy shoulder just off the highway. Although the wheels were sitting in sand, Mr. Freckleton suddenly "tried gunning the motorcycle,” said the detective. "It spun out and fell to the ground.”

Mr. Freckleton then took off, running through the restaurant's parking lot, hopping a fence, and heading into nearby woods. The village officer raced after him, and the town officer, who was patrolling in the area, joined the chase. Mr. Freckleton was brought down when he came out of the woods onto Wainscott Stone Road, about 2,000 feet from Montauk Highway.

He was handcuffed, though not before a struggle that ended when the town officer discharged the Taser. The Taser was added to the gun belts of all town police last year.

The stunned man was taken to Southampton Hospital and treated for the effects of the Taser, then released to village police custody. The town officer, Luke McNamara, was advised by a doctor to undergo an M.R.I. scan to determine the extent of the injury to his knee.

The license plates on the cycle were allegedly stolen, Det. Long said, and the bike's V.I.N. number was ground off. Police are trying to determine whether the cycle itself was stolen, by comparing serial numbers on its parts and matching them up with New York State records.

In East Hampton Town Justice Court Saturday morning, Justice Lisa R. Rana asked the defendant where he lived. “Brooklyn,” he said. He told her that he commuted from Brooklyn to the East End daily. “At first I took the Long Island Rail Road.” He then began to tell the court how he obtained the motorcycle, but Justice Rana cut him off. “This is being recorded,” she said, explaining that anything he said could be used against him.

Mr. Freckleton said he had been unemployed before coming to work at the Wainscott restaurant, and that he had been traveling.

“Those two don’t normally go together,” Justice Rana observed. She read out the charges against the man, three misdemeanors in addition to the felony: fleeing a police officer, resisting arrest, and possession of stolen property (the license plates). He was also cited for six vehicle infractions.

The district attorney’s office requested that bail be set at $5,000, a number the justice said she was inclined to agree with, considering Mr. Freckleton’s scant ties to the area. He told her he had only $16. “Can I ask that bail be reduced to something more feasible? Can you make it $1,000?”

“I thought you only had $16.”

Mr. Freckleton said that Georgica Restaurant owed him some back salary.

“A police officer was hurt in this,” Justice Rana said. She set bail at $3,000. 

Mr. Freckleton appeared surprised to hear of Officer McNamara's injury. “It is impossible for me to make bail at $3,000,” he protested. 

Justice Rana said that was as low as she was prepared to go.

“I am sorry an officer got hurt,” Mr. Freckleton said, sitting back down on the prisoners’ bench. He is being held in the county jail in Yaphank and will be returned to the local court on Thursday. If no grand jury indictment is obtained by then, he will be released without bail.