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NORTH STRABANE, Penn. -- After a two-hour, high-speed jaunt in his foster mother's station wagon Sunday night, during which he crashed into a state police car, an 11-year-old boy was charged with a slew of offenses, including aggravated assault.
Police were called at 7:40 p.m. to Meadowbrook Road in North Strabane after Eileen Shutok-Cutright, 49, reported that the child had snatched her keys and left in her white Toyota Camry station wagon.
After interviewing the foster parents, North Strabane police Officer Keith Hutter speculated that the boy might head to Cokeburg, where his family lives, and he informed police there to be on the lookout. The boy's biological parents also searched for him in the area.
Both the foster and biological parents said the boy, to their knowledge, had never driven a car before.
State police Trooper Brian Bell spotted the car at about 9:15 p.m. on Route 917 in Bentleyville -- a few miles from Cokeburg -- and began to pursue it. The boy pulled onto Interstate 70 westbound and continued for eight to 10 miles, state police said, at speeds of 80 to 85 mph.
The boy pulled off onto Route 519 in Somerset Township, striking Trooper Mark Kern's car. Trooper Kern was in the vehicle, but was not injured.
As the boy continued south on Route 519, Trooper Bell hit the back of the station wagon with the right front of his car, causing the Toyota to spin out of control and slam into a utility pole in front of a gas station, destroying the pole. The boy then tried to flee on foot, but was quickly apprehended.
The boy was treated for a few cuts and bruises at Washington Hospital, then placed in the custody of the Washington County Juvenile Probation Office.
He is charged with aggravated assault, recklessly endangering another person, resisting arrest, fleeing and attempting to elude a police officer, receiving stolen property and 27 traffic violations.
"He's extremely lucky because the impact on the utility pole was on the left rear passenger's side door," Officer Hutter said. "Had it been on the driver's side door, he would have been seriously hurt or state police could be investigating a fatal accident."
Officer Hutter said the boy, whose name was not released, was placed with Mrs. Shutok-Cutright and Kevin Cutright by Try-Again Homes. He had just moved in with his foster parents Wednesday.
Try-Again Homes declined to comment, citing confidentiality agreements, but the organization's Web site said it places children who have been abused or neglected, or whose homes have excessive conflict. The foster family didn't report any unusual behavior from the boy, Officer Hutter said, before he took off with the car.
The Cutrights told police that the boy was taking medication for attention deficit hyperactivity disorder.
Officer Hutter said there were no indications that the boy had been abused by his foster parents, and they seemed shaken by the incident.
"They're relatively new at this," he said. "You try to provide an environment for a kid, then all hell breaks loose."