Second police chase yields probation

Tuesday, January 31, 2017
Nicholas R. Clapp

McCOOK, Neb. -- A McCook man sentenced to prison time in 2014 for leading police on a high speed chase in a stolen vehicle was back in Red Willow County District Court earlier this month facing sentencing on similar charges. The man, 25-year-old Nicholas R. Clapp of 405 West 4th Street, received 36 months probation on a felony offense for operating a motor vehicle recklessly and to avoid arrest, while having a previous conviction for the same offense, and a misdemeanor offense for attempted possession of methamphetamine.

Clapp was originally cited with 19 alleged offenses stemming from his most recent arrest, with eight charges subsequently pursued by Red Willow County Attorney Paul Wood and two remaining following a plea agreement. The plea agreement also committed criminal charges in an unrelated case would not be filed by the state, according to court documents.

Clapp was driving a red, unlicensed, Mercury Cougar when a McCook police officer attempted to stop him for speeding at just past 1 a.m. on Sept. 11, 2016. According to the arresting officer, Clapp fled at a high rate of speed, with no regard for the safety of persons or property. A subsequent pursuit ended after Clapp's vehicle crashed into a building and he fled on foot. The officer chased Clapp approximately three blocks on foot before arresting him at gunpoint.

The arresting officer originally sought charges including felony flight to avoid arrest, willful reckless driving, possession of methamphetamine, possession of drug paraphernalia and leaving the scene of a property damage accident, in addition to "a large number of traffic infractions, which occurred before and during the pursuit."

The officer reported Clapp's vehicle became airborne at three intersections during the pursuit; West E and West 5th Street; West E and West 4th Street' and East 3rd and East B Street, with speeds exceeding 65 miles per hour on residential streets.

During the pursuit and after crossing East B Street at East 3rd Street, Clapp's vehicle attempted to turn west onto East A Street but instead slid sideways over the ramp of a truck scale belonging to Frenchman Valley Coop, before striking the building next to the scale and coming to a stop.

"The driver of the vehicle operated it in a manner that was absolutely unsafe, with little or no regard to the safety of persons or property," according to the police report. When asked why he ran, Clapp told the arresting officer "Because I've been drinking." Clapp was subsequently given a preliminary breath test at 2:02 a.m. which yielded a 0.076 result, just within the legal limit of 0.08.

Law enforcement officers later confiscated an open bottle of whiskey along with a small digital scale which tested positive for the presence of methamphetamine from Clapp's vehicle.

Clapp was cited by arresting officers with 19 offenses, including second offense felony flight to avoid arrest; second offense willful reckless driving; reckless driving; careless driving; leaving the scene of a property damage accident; possession of meth; possession of drug paraphernalia; improper passing; failure to signal; open container; no insurance; speeding 47 mph in a 30 mph zone; and seven offenses for violating a stop sign.

County Attorney Paul Wood subsequently pursued eight original charges, including a Class IV felony alleging possession of meth; an infraction alleging possession of drug paraphernalia; an infraction alleging possessing an open alcohol container; a Class II misdemeanor alleging no insurance; an infraction alleging speeding 47 in a 30 zone; a Class IV felony alleging Clapp operated a motor vehicle to avoid arrest, while previously having a conviction for the offense and driving recklessly; a Class 3 misdemeanor alleging operation of a motor vehicle with disregard for public safety; and a Class 2 misdemeanor alleging Clapp left the scene of a property damage accident.

Clapp subsequently accepted a plea agreement admitting guilt to the Class IV felony for recklessly operating a motor vehicle to avoid arrest and with a prior conviction, as well as a reduced Class I misdemeanor offense for attempted possession of meth, while dismissing the six other alleged offenses.

The plea agreement also committed, "the State will not file a charge of Assault by a Confined Person against the Defendant."

Red Willow County District Court Judge David Urbom subsequently sentenced Clapp to 36 months probation during a Jan. 9, 2017, sentencing hearing.

In April of 2014 Clapp received prison time on a similar conviction for operating a motor vehicle to avoid arrest. After crashing a stolen sports car into a ditch south of McCook, while attempting to allude police officers, he accepted a plea agreement admitting guilt to a felony offense of theft by unlawful taking and a misdemeanor offense for operating a motor vehicle to avoid arrest, according to court documents.

Clapp was sentenced to 2-4 years in state prison on the theft charge and a consecutive 2-6 months for the misdemeanor flight offense during an April 2014 sentencing hearing in Red Willow County District Court.

The 2014 chase and subsequent arrest of Clapp occurred 407 days after he had been sentenced to a 718 day county jail sentence stemming from several home invasion offenses. According to investigators, Clapp and another man forced their way into several local homes wearing bandanas to hide their identity and assaulting residents they startled awake in many instances. The crime resulted in Clapp's conviction on seven Class I misdemeanor third degree assault offenses and one Class III misdemeanor offense for disturbing the peace.