Warrant issued in motorhome eluding case
January 15, 2019
A $10,000 nationwide warrant was issued for the arrest of a California man accused of eluding officers in two counties in a motorhome after he failed to appear in Douglas County District Court on Tuesday.
Alturas resident Christopher Debastiani, 46, waived his Tahoe Township Justice Court preliminary hearing on Dec. 18, 2018. According to prosecutor Ric Casper, that was about a week after the GPS tracker Debastiani was ordered to wear died.
In a Dec. 25 email to The Record-Courier, Debastiani denied he violated the law, saying he was startled when South Lake Tahoe police knocked on his motorhome door.
"I was a tourist in South Lake Tahoe and I was going to Burning Man the next day," he said of the Aug. 26, 2018, chase that started in Stateline and wound up in Gardnerville.
"It wasn't until way after the state line driving in the dark that I saw police lights behind me, so there was no way I passed a police officer and he noticed my lights not working or off," he said.
According to the deputy who started the pursuit, he received a report that a motorhome without lights was heading across the state line.
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He said he spotted Debastiani's 1996 Airstream motorhome eastbound on Highway 50 without rear lights at about 55 mph in the 35 mph zone.
The deputy said the driver appeared to be having trouble keeping the motorhome in his lane.
Deputies said they followed the motorhome with lights and sirens down Highway 50 over Spooner Summit and down to Highway 395 where they had a roadblock and spike strip waiting.
The motorhome ran over the spike strips, popping the driver's side tires sending a shower of sparks from the flattened tires, sending pieces of burning rubber onto the highway. The pursuit was videotaped by residents at the time.
According to the report, deputies deployed another set of spike strips at Highway 88 and Ironwood Drive.
Deputies set up another roadblock at highways 395 and 88, which Debastiani avoided by turning into the Maverik gas station driveway and then across the commercial development and the park.
The motorhome's rims left a groove on Highway 395 before it stopped by colliding with the Ritchford Stables in Gardnerville.
Debastiani submitted reports to The Record-Courier indicating he wasn't under the influence when tested after his arrest.
He faces a charge of felony eluding in Douglas County District Court.