Rasheeda Brown stole two cars during her wild police pursuit across Southampton and Riverhead Town last month at speeds topping 120 miles per house, a prosecutor said during her arraignment on a slew of felony and misdemeanor charges.
And she tried to steal a third, but after she climbed over a teenager in the passenger seat and tried to make her getaway again, the 30-year-old Riverhead resident’s escape attempt was foiled — she didn’t know how to get the vehicle’s manual transmission into gear.
Ms. Brown’s elaborate series of escapes and high-speed car chases on Sept. 17 were documented in new detail at the arraignment Wednesday afternoon in Suffolk County court. She pleaded not guilty to the indictment, a 28-count summary of alleged crimes including 15 felonies for grand larceny, escaping custody, possession of stolen property and vehicle theft.
At the courthouse, Ms. Brown’s reported wife, 32-year-old Tanya Schultheis Brown, was also arraigned on more than a dozen charges related to the police chase, with prosecutors alleging she was found in possession of stolen purses from one of the stolen cars and used a credit card at Tanger Outlets to buy hundreds of dollars of merchandise.
Assistant district attorney Maggie Bopp told Suffolk County judge Fernando Camacho that the chase started when Southampton Town police were alerted to a suspicious 2015 Toyota Highlander. The vehicle, driven by Rasheeda Brown, fled when police approached and led police from Sunrise Highway to Route 111 and finally onto the Long Island Expressway into Riverhead, Ms. Bopp said.
Along the way, Ms. Brown drove on the side of the road, blowing out a tire. She continued onto Route 58 while being pursued by the police, and was stopped after she smashed into a state trooper’s vehicle.
Ms. Bopp said the trooper had used his vehicle to shield pedestrians in a Route 58 parking lot. Ms. Brown tried to run after the crash but was arrested and taken to Peconic Bay Medical Center to be treated for reported chest pains, police said.
While in the hospital, Ms. Brown was left in a room with a bathroom that connected to another room, where she was able to slip away despite being handcuffed, prosecutors allege.
Ms. Brown next stole a second vehicle in the TJ Maxx parking lot, taking it while its owner was standing near the trunk, Ms. Bopp said. Ms. Brown fled to her residence on Mill Road, where she received help in getting the handcuffs taken off.
By that time, state police had used a “Find My iPhone” app from the victim at TJ Maxx to track down Ms. Brown’s location, Ms. Bopp said in court. Ms. Brown again took off in the stolen car, leading police on yet another chase until she collided with a Jeep towing a SeaDoo jet-ski, sending it “flying into the air,” the prosecutor said. That’s when she allegedly got out of her car and tried to steal the Jeep but couldn’t get away.
According to Ms. Bopp, Ms. Brown provided police with a three-page statement on the incident and blood tests showed signs of fentanyl and cocaine.
Ms. Brown has a prior felony conviction, Ms. Bopp added, and failure to appear in court in 2007.
At her arraignment, Ms. Brown was led into the courtroom in a white jumpsuit, handcuffed with a restraining belt wrapped around her waist.
Ms. Brown’s court-appointed attorney, Eileen Powers of Riverhead, said her client was a lifelong resident of Flanders and Riverhead and a Riverhead High School graduate. She said Ms. Brown has not received treatment for drug issues, though she attempted “numerous times” to get into a program.
Ms. Powers said she had spoken with prosecutors about having the case moved to drug court, where treatment could be included in a possible sentence.
“She was clearly high, according to the allegations, at the time [of the chase],” Ms. Powers said. Bail was set at $200,000 cash or $750,000 bond.
Ms. Brown’s wife was also held on bail on another indictment that included charges of felony forgery, six counts of criminal possession of stolen property and identity theft.
Ms. Bopp said Tanya Schultheis Brown took purses from the stolen vehicle, which were later identified by the victim. According to prosecutors, Ms. Brown has three prior felony convictions, eight convictions for misdemeanor offenses and failed to appear in court four times with parole and probation violations.
Attorney Michael Gajdos of Central Islip, who was appointed by the court to represent Tanya Schultheis Brown, declined to make an argument for her bail, but noted that “none of the charges in the indictment are violent.”
Ms. Brown also pleaded not guilty and was held in jail on $100,000 cash bail or $300,000 bond. Rasheeda and Tanya Brown are due back in court on Nov. 10 and 9, respectively.
Another man police connected with the chase has not yet been indicted.
According to police, 47-year-old Wallace Conklin — who owned the Browns’ home on Mill Road — cut off Ms. Brown’s handcuffs and was arrested on charges of fourth-degree criminal facilitation, fifth-degree conspiracy and third-degree hindering prosecution, police said.
However, he was released on his own recognizance from town court and is due back in court on Oct. 17, according to town court officials. Unlike the Browns, Mr. Conklin has not yet faced charges in county court.
Photo caption: The SeaDoo jet ski that was struck during Ms. Brown’s alleged police pursuit in September. (Credit: Tim Gannon)