The sun came up Wednesday morning following a harrowing Tuesday in which Portsmouth law enforcement feared a vehicle that had been pursued from Lewis County, Kentucky into Portsmouth contained an explosive device. The day’s activities, in which most of Third and Fourth streets, remained cordoned off from 3:15 p.m. until 9:30 p.m., was climaxed by a operation performed by the Columbus Division of Fire Bomb Squad. A member of the squad in full bomb-detection gear finally entered the vehicle and found nothing. Around 9:20 p.m. Portsmouth Police Chief Robert Ware sounded the “all clear.”
On Wednesday morning, Lewis County Sheriff Johnny Bivens clarified the entire scenario. Bivens said his office was conducting surveillance of a residence in the Garrison area when they observed their target leave the residence in a white Chevy Lumina. Bivens said he and Deputy Bryon Walker attempted to stop the vehicle on east Kentucky 8 when the operator accelerated and began passing east bound motorists in the west bound lane at speeds in excess of 100 miles per hour.
Bivens said as the pursuit continued east on Kentucky 8, an unidentified object was observed being thrown from the passenger side of the vehicle. Bivens said the operator turned left onto the Grant Bridge and proceeded to take Exit 52 toward Cincinnati where Walker was able to execute a pit maneuver causing the vehicle to spin around where the driver proceeded into downtown Portsmouth.
He said as the driver attempted to drive through the parking lot of the Social Security Office on the east side of Portsmouth, Bivens was able to execute another pit maneuver, which stalled the vehicle enough allowing the operator, Sammy Bertam to exit the vehicle and run toward the river. Bivens apprehended Bertram after a short foot pursuit.
According to Bivens, there were two other occupants in the vehicle and one of them jumped into the driver’s seat of the stalled vehicle and again accelerated with Walker giving chase before the operator abandoned the vehicle and fled on foot. Walker apprehended Mason Bertram at that location.
“It was obvious the occupants were a trio of ignoramus people who had no concern for anyone’s safety and I made the decision to take whatever means necessary to stop them,” Bivens said.
He said, as the investigation continued throughout the evening much more information about what led them to believe that there may have been some type of explosive device in the vehicle came to light. Both Sammy and Mason Bertram were transported to SOMC before being lodged in the Scioto County Detention Center.
Anyone who may have witnessed the incident is being encouraged to call the Lewis County Sheriff’s Office at 606-796-2912. Bivens said there was no damage to any Lewis County Sheriff’s vehicles.
Reach Frank Lewis at 740-353-3101, ext. 1928, or on Twitter @franklewis.