Updated with photos

Driver evading police rockets into Condon Street living room

Family unharmed in dramatic late-night crash
By Ethan Andrews | Jul 01, 2018
Photo by: Ethan Andrews Steve Kunkle installs a tarp over a gaping hole in his Condon Street home where a pickup truck crashed early Sunday morning.

Belfast — Steve Kunkle said he wasn't sure if he saw lights or heard the sound of an engine, but he remembers looking out of his upstairs bedroom window just in time to see a pickup truck barrel into the living room under his feet.

"Right into the house. No skidding," he said. "I'm sure I said some profanity."

It was a little after 1 a.m. on July 1. About 20 minutes earlier, Kunkle said he had been sitting in the living room having a nightcap with his son who is visiting with his wife and children. The house, at 27 Condon St., lies just across from a "T" intersection with Bayview Street in the residential area south of downtown.

Kunkle said he went downstairs after the crash to see about a foot of the pickup's tailgate sticking out of the house. The other five family members were staying in the rear of the residence, a long farmhouse that extends back from the road in several sections. None of them were injured.

Belfast Police Sgt. John Gibbs said the crash followed an encounter with police. The driver, 22-year-old Leonid Richter of Belfast, was seen by Officer Lewis Dyer running a stop sign at Main and Front streets at 1 a.m.

The truck pulled away at a high rate of speed, and Dyer turned on his lights and sirens and followed Richter, who continued down Front Street, blowing a stop sign at Miller Street, then making the dogleg at Commercial Street.

On Bayview Street, Gibbs said, the truck pulled away from Dyer, who wasn't able to keep up safely on the narrow residential street.

Dyer saw the truck stop abruptly when it hit the house. When he pulled up, he saw Richter get out of the passenger side of the truck with his hands up. The man claimed he wasn't driving, but police believe that he was.

"The homeowner came right down when the truck was in the living room," Gibbs said, adding that police searched the house. "No one else was in the vehicle."

Richter was taken to Waldo County General Hospital to be checked out, but was "not significantly injured," Gibbs said. He was arrested and charged with operating under the influence, eluding an officer, reckless conduct with a dangerous weapon (the vehicle), driving to endanger, operating after having his license suspended for a prior OUI conviction, and aggravated criminal mischief.

(Courtesy of: Belfast Police Department)
(Courtesy of: Belfast Police Department)
(Photo by: Liz Snider)
(Courtesy of: Belfast Police Department)
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