Billings man denies charges in chase, train crash

2013-01-10T15:19:00Z 2013-02-01T01:53:49Z Billings man denies charges in chase, train crashBy ZACH BENOIT zbenoit@billingsgazette.com The Billings Gazette

A Billings man denied charges Thursday that he crashed into a moving train with three other people in the car after driving away from an earlier crash with law officers in pursuit.

Victor Michael Johnson, 60, appeared in District Court by video from the Yellowstone County jail and pleaded not guilty to three counts of felony criminal endangerment as well as misdemeanor charges of drunken driving, fleeing from police, failure to give immediate notification of a crash and driving around or through a railroad gate.

Judge Susan Watters continued Johnson's bond at $50,000 after prosecutors outlined his criminal history, which dates to the 1970s and includes felony convictions for aggravated assault, voluntary manslaughter, drug possession and theft.

On Jan. 2, a woman reported that pickup truck hit her vehicle near South Billings Boulevard and Laurel Road and did not stop.

Court records say that she told law enforcement that the truck was headed toward westbound Interstate 90. A county sheriff's deputy tried to stop the pickup on South Frontage Road. It crossed a railroad crossing at South 56th Street West as a train approached.

The train struck the pickup, which continued driving, and then came to a stop, preventing the deputy from giving further chase. A Montana Highway Patrol trooper was waiting at a home nearby, where the truck's registered owner lived, according to the affidavit.

The trooper watched the truck approach the home and when he tried to pull it over, the driver did not stop, court records state. Eventually the driver, identified as Johnson, pulled back into the home and the trooper arrested him.

Three other people were in the truck at the time. Court records say that Johnson had a blood-alcohol level of 0.125 percent.

Copyright 2014 The Billings Gazette. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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