Austin Zarse
Austin Zarse
The man who led police on a pursuit Monday night before going into a ditch had been under investigation for drugs for several months.

On Monday, a three-month investigation conducted by the Kosciusko County Narcotics Enforcement Team (NET 43) culminated in the arrest of Austin Nathaniel Zarse, 27, of 518 Chinworth Court, Warsaw, according to a news release Thursday from the Kosciusko County Sheriff’s Office.

A news release Wednesday from the Indiana State Police on the police pursuit had listed Zarse’s address as Leesburg.

During the three-month investigation, law enforcement officers conducted undercover purchases of methamphetamine from Zarse totaling approximately 176.28 grams and a 9 mm CZ Scorpion handgun, high-capacity magazines and ammunition, the KCSO news release states.

At approximately 10 p.m. Monday, ISP trooper Matthew Drudge saw the driver of a gray 2017 Jeep commit a moving violation as it travelled north on Ind. 15 south of Leesburg, according to Monday’s news release from the ISP. Drudge activated the emergency lights on his marked ISP Dodge Charger and the Jeep pulled to the right and stopped near the intersection of Ind. 15 and Levi Lee Road.

As Drudge approached the Jeep on the passenger side, he noticed the driver - Zarse - still had his foot on the brakes due to the brake lights being on. As Drudge began to speak to Zarse, another trooper stopped to see if Drudge needed assistance.  As the assisting trooper began to walk towards the Jeep, Zarse sped off northbound on Ind. 15.

Zarse led troopers and assisting agencies on a pursuit that continued northbound through Leesburg, the news release stated. As Zarse approached CR 900N, he took the pursuit off the roadway and began to drive westbound through a field.  Drudge followed Zarse through the field as he travelled northwest.

Zarse continued to flee until his Jeep ran down an embankment and into Coppes Ditch. The Jeep became disabled and came to a stop in approximately 3 feet of water.  Zarse exited the Jeep and was taken into custody but not before he began dumping bags of an unknown substance into the water, the ISP release states.

Officers booked Zarse into the Kosciusko County Jail.

The KCSO news release states that Zarse was charged with three counts of dealing methamphetamine in excess of 10 grams, a Level 2 felony; three counts of possession of methamphetamine in excess of 28 grams, a Level 3 felony; possession of a firearm by a serious violent felon, a Level 4 felony; and resisting law enforcement, a Level 6 felony.

The court set bond at $150,000 surety, plus $250 cash. The court further ordered that if bond is posted, and Zarse was released from jail, Zarse would be required to participate in electronic monitoring until further order of the court, according to the KCSO release.

NET 43 is a collaborative law enforcement unit consisting of officers from Kosciusko County Prosecutor’s Office, Warsaw Police Department, ISP, KCSO, Winona Lake Police Department and the Nappanee Police Department.

The investigators of NET43 remind the citizens of Kosciusko County and surrounding areas they can provide drug tip information by emailing, or calling the NET43 tip line at 574-372-2494.