A Lynchburg man was sentenced to a little more than four years in prison for leading law enforcement on a high-speed chase through Madison Heights during the summer that ended up sending him, another driver and an Amherst County Sheriff’s deputy to the hospital.
Joshua Carl Finnegan, 22, pleaded guilty in November to a list of nine charges from the July 8 chase, including driving under the influence of drugs, felony eluding police and four counts of reckless driving.
At Finnegan’s April 14 sentencing hearing, Amherst County Sheriff’s Sgt. Blake Hudson said he was running radar off Seminole Drive at about 5 p.m. that day when a white Chevrolet pickup, later determined to have Finnegan at the wheel, sped past him at 65 mph in a 35 mph zone.
Hudson narrated dashboard camera footage played in court that showed him activating his emergency lights and starting to chase Finnegan around that section of Madison Heights, driving up to 109 mph on stretches of road that had about 35 mph speed limits and weaving between other vehicles.
The footage showed Finnegan running through red lights, flying through fairly dense residential areas and at one point making a sharp U-turn to flee Hudson.
Hudson said about five law enforcement officers joined the nearly seven-minute chase and about 15 officers were present when Finnegan crashed at the intersection of Virginia 130 and Dixie Airport Road.
Amherst County Sheriff’s Lt. Dallas Hill had arrived there seconds prior, intending to stop any vehicles at the intersection so they wouldn’t be hit, dashboard camera footage from Hill’s car showed in court. One red truck drove through the intersection heading eastbound on Virginia 130 and was hit by Finnegan’s truck at what Hudson said was about 40 mph, pushing it into Hill’s car.
Hill’s body camera footage showed the sharp jolt of the crash and his vehicle’s airbag expanding. He appeared to be in shock, groaning and arms dangling immediately after his car was hit, panicked and unintelligible, as other officers dragged him from the scene and reassured him before calling for fire and EMS response and laying him on the asphalt.
Officers at the scene rushed to Finnegan’s truck after the crash as well, and officer camera footage showed its entire hood mangled to a black stump. Hudson demanded Finnegan show both hands past his vehicle’s airbag before pulling him out of the truck with the help of another officer and taking Finnegan to the ground, where he was handcuffed.
Hill was taken to Lynchburg General Hospital for treatment of his injuries and was released later that evening, the sheriff’s office said at the time. Finnegan and the driver of the red truck also were taken to the hospital for injuries and later recovered.
Hudson said Hill was out of work for weeks after the crash and added many people were worried about his condition that day.
“Outside the emotions running high, you’re very concerned about the well-being of this person,” he testified.
Blood tests from Finnegan after the crash showed methamphetamine, amphetamine and THC in his system at the time, according to Deputy Commonwealth’s Attorney Amber Drumheller.
Michael Lovell, Finnegan’s attorney, presented evidence his client had developed drug issues since his father died two and a half years prior to the chase. He said Finnegan didn’t have any brush-ins with law enforcement until some drug offenses just beforehand, and asked Amherst Circuit Judge Michael Garrett to sentence him within guidelines recommending anywhere from three to six months in jail.
Drumheller argued for a five-year sentence, saying Finnegan put many lives at risk and had showed no regard for his own safety or the safety of others during the chase.
When given the chance to speak, Finnegan apologized.
“What I did was stupid and foolish, and I regret it to this day,” he said.
Garrett said drug use isn’t an excuse and the footage showed it was a “gross understatement” to say Finnegan showed a disregard for human life. He called the videos chilling and hard to watch.
“How someone wasn’t killed is beyond me,” he said.
Garrett sentenced Finnegan to a total of four years and one month of incarceration, after which he’ll be on supervised probation for two years and need to be of good behavior for 15 years.
He’ll also have to forfeit his license, submit to drug testing and treatment and pay more than $24,000 in restitution that ultimately will go to the Amherst County Sheriff’s Office for the vehicle damage and worker’s compensation costs.