GREAT FALLS — A man has been charged after leading police on a high-speed chase in Great Falls on Tuesday.
Court documents state that at about 2 p.m., a Great Falls Police officer saw Merle Joseph Gardipee driving a Ford F-250 near the intersection of 9th Street South and 4th Avenue, and knew that there were felony warrants for Gardipee's arrest.
The officer attempted a traffic stop, but Gardipee drove away, leading to a brief chase in city limits that exceeded 60 mph. Gardipee reportedly ran numerous traffic-controlled intersections (traffic lights, stop signs) and had several near collisions with other vehicles. He also drove up onto a sidewalk at one point and nearly lost control of the vehicle.
Officers then initiated a "PIT" maneuver, which caused Gardipee's vehicle to spin around. Gardipee began to get out of his vehicle, believing that the chase was over, but then accelerated forward and rammed a police vehicle in the driver-side door. The officer in the vehicle was shaken up, but not injured.
Court documents state that Gardipee placed a number of people at risk by his reckless flight from law enforcement, and also that he is a probation absconder with "a number of prior felony and misdemeanor convictions," including aggravated assault, drug convictions, and an escape He is also a registered violent offender.
Gardipee, 46 years old, was booked into the Cascade County Detention Center at 4:26 p.m. He has been charged with felony criminal endangerment and felony assault with a weapon for Tuesday's incident. Bail for Gardipee was set at $100,000.