By Jo-Anne MacKenzie firstname.lastname@example.org
---- — SALEM — A police officer narrowly avoided a head-on collision with a car traveling on the wrong side of the road, at a high speed and with no headlights.
As many as 20 cars blocked a section of Main Street early yesterday morning for drag racing and six Massachusetts residents were arrested, according to Deputy police Chief Shawn Patten
“I think it’s probably the first time we’ve seen the number of vehicles and brazenness with the area they were trying to cordon off,” Patten said. “We’ve had drag racing before, but not with that many cars in as wide and very well traveled, busy intersection.”
Police officers were in the area on another car stop when they heard engines revving and tires squealing, he said.
Just after they heard the noise, a call came in at 2 a.m. for reported drag racing at the intersection of Main Street and Pelham Road.
A responding officer drove off the side of Main Street to avoid a head-on collision; he wasn’t injured and his cruiser wasn’t damaged. But it was a close call.
“It could have resulted in some tragic consequences with that type of driving behavior,” Patten said. “One of our cruisers was put in harm’s way. He was able to avoid an accident, but it’s certainly not safe by any stretch of the imagination.”
Some of the cars and drivers fled the scene before police could stop them, but six people were charged.
The car that almost struck the cruiser raced down Pleasant Street and into Rockingham Park, Patten said. Other officers were able to box the car in there and apprehend the driver. The car was stripped out, Patten said, with only a rollbar and the driver’s seat. It had wide, slick tires on it, no license plates and a revoked registration, he said.
Many of the cars involved were Honda Civics and other small foreign vehicles, he said.
“We’re assuming they emptied it to make it lighter,” Patten said. “It had been completely modified — exhaust, tires.”
Leandro Pena, 24, of Boston was released on $500 cash bail on charges of reckless operation, disobeying a police officer, driving an unregistered motor vehicle and misuse of plates.
Bernardo Nin Del Valle, 22, of Lynn was charged with reckless conduct, a Class B felony, and racing on highways. He was released on $1,000 personal recognizance.
Surelvi Rivas, 23, of Lynn and Jefferson Rodriguez, 21, of Chelsea both were released on $1,000 personal recognizance, each for a single reckless conduct charge.
David Torres, 19, of Boston was released on a summons for defective equipment, a yellow line violation and safe tires required.
Anthony Santiago, 24, of Lawrence was released on a summons for possession of marijuana and having an open container.
The activity could have had serious consequences for innocent motorists, Patten said, because it’s a well traveled stretch of roadway, even though it was at a relatively quiet time of night.