Prosecutors have filed felony charges against a 19-year-old Billings man accused of leading officers on a high-speed chase.
Zachary Allan Hankel appeared for arraignment Friday in Yellowstone County District Court by video from the county jail. He pleaded not guilty to two counts of felony criminal endangerment.
Hankel also denied misdemeanor charges of fleeing or eluding an officer, driving without insurance, driving without a valid license, driving a vehicle with fictitious plates, improper vehicle signal lamp and possession of drug paraphernalia.
Judge Ingrid Gustafson set bond at $15,000 and ordered that Hankel not drive while the case is pending. A prosecutor said Hankel has 24 prior traffic convictions and about $50,000 in outstanding city warrants.
According to court records, on Oct. 8 at about 11 p.m. a Montana Highway Patrol trooper spotted a Honda Civic without a front plate or working turn signal turn left onto State Avenue.
The driver sped off when the trooper tried to stop the car.
Speeds reached 70 mph during an ensuing chase, and the trooper noted the custom license plate of the Honda read WAGONE.
The trooper stopped pursuing the car after the driver ran four red lights and failed to stop at four stop signs.
A sheriff’s deputy familiar with Hankel contacted the trooper and provided an address, but efforts to locate Hankel that night were unsuccessful.
The sheriff’s office also confirmed that Hankel was suspected of eluding deputies during a similar chase a week earlier.
Hankel was located at his residence the following day. A witness told a deputy that he was a passenger in the Honda the previous night during the pursuit and asked Hankel to stop fleeing. A female passenger was also in the car, the witness said.
Hankel denied he was driving, saying he frequently loaned his car to friends. Prosecutors said a metal pipe was found in Hankel’s possession.