Competency order sparks courtroom disturbance in case of motorhome chase |

Competency order sparks courtroom disturbance in case of motorhome chase

A 1997 Airstream motorhome that was the subject of a spark-filled chase from Stateline, South Lake Tahoe through Carson and ending in Gardnerville in August 2018.
Kurt Hildebrand

Figurative sparks flew at a hearing for a man accused of literally leaving a trail of sparks during a motorhome chase last summer through Carson Valley over an order he undergo a competency evaluation at Lakes Crossing in Sparks.

Expressing concern that California resident Christopher Debastiani would not be able to aid in his defense at a July trial, District Judge Tod Young said he was concerned that Debastiani hadn’t yet undergone the evaluation.

Debastiani cursed and struggled with bailiffs after accusing prosecutor Ric Casper and defense attorney Kris Brown of conspiring against him.

In correspondence with The Record-Courier (the Tribune’s sister publication), Debastiani has denied any wrongdoing connected with the Aug. 26. 2018, chase that started in Stateline and continued down U.S. 50 to Carson City then down to Gardnerville, where his motorhome ran into the Ritchford Stables.

Debastiani hasn’t denied he was driving the motorhome. He contends that South Lake Tahoe police contacted him on a false charge prompting his flight into Stateline.

Douglas County deputies were waiting on the other side of the state line where they said he was driving without running lights.

Debastiani claims he didn’t see deputies pursuing him. He ran a roadblock at the base of U.S. 50 where a spike strip punctured the left side tires.

Videos of the shower of sparks left by the motorhome as it traveled down U.S. 395 and through Minden and Gardnerville went viral on social media.

Debastiani was arrested, but was released on bail a short time later. He waived a preliminary hearing in Tahoe Township Justice Court in December and was ordered to appear in district court.

A warrant was issued for his arrest. He told The R-C that he cut off the GPS tracker and Casper said he was located in Nebraska before being brought back.

Debastiani is also facing charges in Washoe County on a separate incident involving failure to stop for authorities.

He is not the only man in Douglas County Jail accused of eluding who is awaiting a spot at Lakes Crossing.

Young said he has ordered evaluations for both Debastiani and Bay Area resident Stefon Jefferson. Jefferson was chased over Kingsbury Grade, and after he was stopped, came out and shot at Douglas County deputies on April 26, hitting one in the hand.

He was taken into custody a short time later. Jefferson is accused of three separate homicides in the Bay Area, and was spotted driving through South Lake Tahoe before he arrived in Douglas County.

Young said he’d heard Lakes Crossing was full. He said he would contact the director of the mental health facility to determine why they haven’t complied with his evaluation orders.

Brown, who was appointed to represent both men, said she’d had similar experiences with Debastiani, making it difficult to prepare for his trial.

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