AUGUSTA — State police arrested a man who said he’s homeless after he led police on a car chase Thursday through Sidney, Manchester and Augusta, reaching speeds of up to 83 mph and switching license plates at one point, police said.

The driver, John J. Gagnon, 56, is facing multiple charges after being taken into custody by state police troopers off Leighton Road in Augusta after the chase. Just before noon, nearly an hour after the chase began off Route 27 in Sidney, a trooper pushed Gagnon’s Subaru station wagon into a spin on Leighton Road, wedging the car between a tree and utility pole wires in front Allen’s Transfer, a moving company.

The chase started around 11:10 a.m. when state police Trooper Diane Vance saw Gagnon’s vehicle turn onto a private road off Route 27 in Sidney that leads to gated property with a cemetery. Vance said it looked suspicious because people have used the property for illicit activities in the past. Right after Vance turned onto the road behind him, Gagnon saw her and started driving back toward Route 27, heading straight toward her cruiser, Vance said.

“I actually braced for the contact because I thought he was going to hit me,” she said.

Gagnon’s car nearly struck Vance’s cruiser, and it continued on Route 27 toward Augusta, along Leighton Road and eventually to U.S. Route 202 in Manchester, she said.

State police spokesman Steve McCausland said in a news release that troopers lost sight of the car when it turned down a narrow road in a wooded area off U.S. Route 202.


Responding law enforcement units, which included other troopers, Kennebec County sheriff deputies and Augusta police officers, didn’t see Gagnon’s car for about a half hour, but it was later spotted on Puddledock Road in Manchester, with its New Hampshire license plate switched for a Massachusetts one, McCausland said.

Gagnon continued to lead police on a chase along Summerhaven Road and then Route 27 back toward Augusta. McCausland said troopers ended the chase by forcing the car into a controlled spin on Leighton Road. Skid marks were visible on the pavement and grass of a neighboring property near where the car was wedged between the tree and utility pole wires.

Gagnon, who McCausland said has a long criminal history in Maine, including several jail terms, had a driver’s license with an address in Turner in 2012, but he told authorities he’s homeless, McCausland said. Gagnon’s license was suspended, and he was wanted on a warrant for multiple charges, including operating after suspension, displaying a fictitious vehicle certificate and attaching false plates, Vance said.

Gagnon was booked in the Kennebec County jail on charges of operating under the influence, driving to endanger, two counts of eluding, improper display of registration plates, operating after suspension and receiving stolen property, Vance said. Gagnon also was arrested on the previous warrant, and his bail was set at $25,000, she said.

Paul Koenig — 621-5663

[email protected]

Twitter: @pdkoenig

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