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Ohio Highway Patrol pursuit leads to crash on I-271 near Route 303; suspect in critical condition after being found unconscious

Traffic was backed up for hours as crews attempted to locate the man, who allegedly pulled a gun on a mechanic in Medina County before leading troopers on a chase.

SUMMIT COUNTY, Ohio — A chaotic chain of events led to traffic being halted for hours on Interstate 271 in Summit County Thursday, and the man who allegedly caused it all is now fighting for his life in the hospital.

According to the Ohio State Highway Patrol, the ordeal began just before 3 p.m., when a mechanic claimed a semi-truck driver pulled a gun on him while on the northbound highway near I-71 in Medina County's Granger Township. Troopers responded to the scene, but as they approached, the suspect apparently unhooked his trailer and sped off in the truck.

The suspect has since been identified as 47-year-old Ali Abdul Esaleh of Buffalo, New York. 

A chase ensued for more than 10 miles along the interstate before reaching Richfield Township, where local police put out stop sticks in an attempt to bring the vehicle to a standstill. Once the truck arrived, it crashed into a Richfield Police Department cruiser before going off the left side of the highway and hitting a guard rail near state Route 303. Esaleh then got out of the cab and ran away into the woods with his firearm still in hand.

Multiple law enforcement agencies then searched for the man for the better part of the next four hours, and during this time I-271 was closed in both directions. Southbound traffic was backed up for about six miles all the way towards state Route 8 in Macedonia, leaving many drivers stranded throughout the rest of the afternoon and early evening.

At 6:45 p.m., authorities say they found the Esaleh unconscious at the bottom of a ravine, still in possession of the weapon. He was taken into custody and transported by ambulance to a local hospital, where he is listed in critical condition. As of Friday at 12:22 p.m., Esaleh was still in the hospital. 

Esaleh is being charged with having weapons under disability, failure to comply and felonious assault. 

Both the north and southbound lanes on I-271 were back open by around 9 p.m.

The Richfield Police Department released the following statement on Friday afternoon: 

We are relieved and thankful that our two Richfield Police officers were not injured in the pursuit incident Thursday with a semi-truck driver on Interstate 271. Our officers responded Thursday afternoon to join Ohio State Highway Patrol Troopers who were in pursuit of the semi-truck driver stemming from an incident that began in Medina County. 

Our officers were outside their patrol vehicle, placing spike strips on the highway to stop the semi-truck. The truck drove at our officers, missing them, then struck our patrol vehicle and subsequently crashed in the median.

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