CPD: Man hospitalized after stealing truck, evading cops, causing Rt. 281 crash

A Fabius man remains hospitalized after stealing a pickup, leading local police on high-speed chase and causing a major collision on Wednesday at the intersection of Route 281 and Route 90 in Homer, official say. GOOGLE MAPS

A Fabius man accused of leading local police on a high-speed chase in a stolen truck— then striking another truck, metal pole and tree — remained in stable condition this afternoon at a Syracuse hospital, according to officials.

Matthew E. Clemens, 33, of 6754 Route 80, was taken to Upstate University Hospital after he was ejected during the Wednesday morning collision at the intersection of Route 90 and Route 281 in Homer, according to city police. Clemens landed 60 feet away from the pickup he stole from Tallmadge Tire on Groton Avenue, said Lt. Michael Strangeway.

Clemens struck another truck at the intersection and its driver was taken to Guthrie Cortland Medical Center for evaluation, Strangeway said. The health status of that man was unavailable this afternoon.

The high-speed chase began about 8 a.m. when Clemens stole a Tallmadge Tire company truck, a white 2013 Chevrolet Silverado 3500, and sped west on Groton Avenue towards Route 281, Strangeway said. 

“Area police agencies were notified and a search for the stolen truck began,” he stated. A caller reported a disorderly vehicle speeding on Kinney Gulf Road shortly after the truck was reported stolen, Strangeway said. Officers turned their attention to searching the area and shortly received a report of a white truck striking another truck at the intersection of Route 281 (South West Street) and Route 90 (Cayuga Street), he added.

“Homer PD was almost immediately on scene,” Strangeway said. Witnesses told officers Clemens drove down the Route 90 hill at more than 50 miles an hour then started speeding across the Route 281 intersection into the Village of Homer, he said.

Clemens struck the other driver’s truck in the intersection, but the stolen truck lurched forward with enough force to snap a metal power pole in two and shear metal street signs, Strangeway said.

“The stolen truck overturned and eventually came to rest in a Homer resident's front lawn, propped on its side against a tree, well over 120 yards from the intersection,” he said.  “Debris from the high speed crash littered the roadway and neighboring yards.”

Clemens was conscious when officers found him 60 yards from the stolen truck, lying near a tree in a resident’s lawn, Strangeway said.

The other truck in the collision suffered major damage, he added.

The damage to the utility pole that controls the stoplights at the major intersection required state Department of Transportation repair and traffic initially reverted to a four-way stop at the area, according to the Homer Police Department. The north- and southbound traffic lights were back in operation later in the day Wednesday, while temporary lights were in place for east-west traffic, according to the department.

 “If this had been shortly after 8:00 AM on an average Wednesday morning we would have had a very different result,” Strangeway said. “The intersection of Route 90 and Route 281 is typically congested and busy with both commuters, school traffic and students as pedestrians. The fact that businesses and schools are currently closed, in all likelihood, prevented this incident from becoming a true catastrophe.”

City police are charging Clemens with two felonies for his actions in the city: third-degree burglary and third-degree grand larceny. The Homer Police Department is still considering the charges it will levy against Clemens, said Chief Bob Pittman in a phone interview on Thursday.

Clemens has not yet been arraigned. 

The New York State Police, Cortland County Sheriff’s Office, Homer Fire Department and TLC Emergency Medical Services assissted the city and village police departments in the investigations into the incident.