Driver Suspected of Leading Police on Multistate Pursuit Was Wanted for Stealing Underwear, Other Offenses

The day after a wild police pursuit crossed two states and lasted for hours, we learned more about the suspect who police say led them on the chase and what he is accused of doing.

In documents obtained by NBC10 from Camden County Prosecutors, Robert Ritter of Blackwood, New Jersey is named as a suspect in two separate incidents in the past month or so. On July 9, Ritter allegedly pushed and shoved a loss prevention officer while trying to shoplift $21 worth of underwear and T-shirts from the ShopRite along Crescent Boulevard in Brooklawn, New Jersey.

"He observed Mr. Ritter go down several aisles, take some undergarments and conceal them," said Brooklawn Police Officer John Stires. "Mr. Ritter pushed him and essentially a fight ensued."

Officer Stires says he responded to the scene but by the time he arrived Ritter was gone. 

Police also say Ritter was involved in another incident in Blackwood on June 25 in which he allegedly disobeyed a protection order by showing up at a woman's job and threatened her over the telephone to the point where she feared for her safety.

Those two incidents marked part of Ritter's extensive violent criminal history that led to numerous warrants for his arrest in various South Jersey jurisdictions, said Oaklyn Police Tuesday.

Ritter also served time in Cumberland County Jail for contempt and traffic violations before being released on June 15, said county department of corrections.

While the security officer he allegedly pushed was not badly hurt, police say Ritter knew that if he was caught and went to court he would not be granted any bail, which was the reason he fled Monday night. Police say he had recently been staying with friends in the area and was trying to hide his white van from authorities. 

Monday night's chase began after police spotted Ritter's van parked behind a business on White Horse Pike. Around 7:23 p.m. an Oaklyn officer spotted Ritter and tried to initiate a motor vehicle stop.

Ritter initially stopped but then sped off leading to the multistate pursuit, said police.

SkyForce10 was over the scene as police pursued at slow to moderate speeds. The suspect led officers across both the Walt Whitman and Ben Franklin bridges as well as various spots in Philadelphia and South Jersey. The van eventually traveled onto Lehigh Avenue and back onto I-95 in Philly around 9:30 p.m.

While on I-95, police vehicles appeared to have the van boxed in and surrounded. However, the suspect managed to weave around the police vehicles and escape and the pursuit continued. About five minutes later, a police vehicle bumped the van -- an action called a "precision immobilization technique (PIT) -- that caused it to flip over near Philadelphia International Airport.

The officers surrounded Ritter, who was wearing a New York Giants Tiki Barber jersey, and took him into custody.

"He just looked dazed and confused at the time of arrest," said Philadelphia Police Lt. John Walker.

Ritter was hospitalized following the wreck. After being released he was transferred into police custody. He is expected to face multiple counts of aggravated assault. He will be extradited back to New Jersey where he will face more charges, said police.

During the chase, no officers nor civilians suffered any injuries.

Copyright AP - Associated Press
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