WHEATLAND — Three 18-year-old men, trapped Monday night between police and a rain-swollen Shenango River, opted for a water getaway, even though two of them didn’t know how to swim.
One day after recovering the body of 18-year-old Isaac Green Wednesday from the Shenango River, Mercer County District Attorney Pete Acker provided a timeline of the immediate moments before Green drowned.
Farrell police said Green, Travis Brandt and a third man were driving a stolen car Monday night when an officer gave chase. Acker did not identify the third man, who has not yet been apprehended, but the district attorney said all three were 18 years old.
The pursuit ended at the end of Church Street in Wheatland, and the three men attempted to evade police on foot. With Brandt — the only one of the three who could swim — leading the way, they went into the water.
Acker said Green, who was more than 6 feet tall, balanced on the shoulder of Brandt, about 5 foot 8 inches tall, as they went into the river. The third man was behind Green.
“It’s deep, the current is fast, it’s obviously not working, so they backed up out of the river,” Acker said.
But the district attorney said the three men took another attempt at the river with police closing in from the direction of Church Street. Brandt told authorities that he thought Green and the third man were behind him, but he never saw either one again.
Brandt was taken into custody by Hermitage police after he crossed over from the river’s eastern bank to the west side.
Police from several agencies, including Hermitage and Farrell, continued to search unsuccessfully for the other two men. Acker said he believes that Green drowned a short time later.
The search, which included a state police helicopter equipped with infrared vision gear, failed to detect Green. Acker said there was no indication Monday night that Green was still in the water.
“When we chased them into that wooded area, it was difficult terrain,” he said. “It’s muddy, it’s swampy.”
The district attorney said people reported seeing the third man around Farrell Tuesday and Wednesday during the search for Green.
Cadaver search dogs, assigned by Mercer County Public Safety Department, found Green’s body about 3:20 p.m. Wednesday. Acker said Green’s body was found near the Shenango River’s western bank, across from where he would have gone into the water.
Mercer County Coroner John Libonati said Wednesday that an autopsy determined Green died by drowning, with the manner of death accidental.
Acker said he sympathized with Green’s family, who was at the search command post Wednesday. When the search dogs found Green’s body, Acker said he called Green’s family members aside to tell them beyond public view.
Police are still seeking the third person in the car with Brandt and Green.
“We’re actively looking for him. We’re actively following up on leads,” he said.
Meanwhile, the stolen car could yield leads of its own in cases not directly related to Monday’s pursuit. Police recovered stolen and illegal weapons and drugs from the vehicle Monday night. Acker said those items could wind up being connected to unsolved crimes in and around Farrell.
“None of these things can be looked at in isolation,” he said. “The pieces are pretty intertwined.”
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