Cocaine suspect to face trial

A Virginia man who police allege was part of the Corner Bar & Grill cocaine ring will face trial.

Larry I. Bowman Jr., 37, of Quinton, Va., allegedly sold cocaine supplied by convicted dealer Jermaine Samuel, 34, who was sentenced last year to 461/2 to 103 years in prison for his role in overseeing an operation that police said brought cocaine in from Baltimore to sell out of the Corner Bar & Grill at 1001 Eighth Ave.

Bowman was charged in 2013 and arrested July 12 of this year after allegedly leading Altoona police on a car chase. He appeared Friday dressed in an orange Blair County Prison jumpsuit for his preliminary hearing on eight drug-related felonies stemming from the Corner Bar cases as well as a separate hearing on 16 charges stemming from his arrest.

Magisterial District Judge Fred Miller found prosecutors showed enough evidence to send both cases onto Blair County Court, although Miller did dismiss a felony charge of escape stemming from the chase.

Altoona police narcotics officer Christopher Moser testified police saw Bowman and another man, Dwight Cox, 27, of East Freedom get out of Bowman’s car and go into The Monkey Wharf Hotel bar late on the night of July 11, and when the pair left the bar about an hour later, police tried to pull over Bowman’s maroon Chevrolet after he failed to use his turn signal at Sixth Street.

Moser said that police initially thought Bowman was armed because of an “assurative pat” he gave his side as he walked from the bar back to his car, but after his arrest, no gun was ever found. Moser said police ultimately found cocaine in Bowman’s car and close to $1,000 in cash in his pocket, both indicators Bowman was selling cocaine, Moser said.

Bowman’s attorney, Mark Zearfaus, questioned Moser as to whether police had any other evidence Bowman was selling cocaine, prompting Moser to point out the large amount of the drug, the large amount of cash and nothing in the car to indicate he had used any of the cocaine.

Altoona Police Patrolman Andrew Crist told the court that after police turned on the cruiser’s lights and sirens, Bowman fled, taking police on a high-speed chase through Altoona’s East End neighborhood. After crossing Lloyd Street from an alley without stopping, Bowman drove onto the 300 block of Crawford Avenue, a dead end.

“Upon running out of road, he bailed out of the vehicle and fled on foot,” Crist testified.

Altoona police found Bowman hiding in a garage on the 300 block of East Bell Avenue and had to pull him from beneath a parked car, Crist said.

Inside the Bowman’s Chevrolet, police could see marijuana in a door handle, and during an inventory search of the car, a half-ounce of cocaine was recovered from the center console, Crist said.

Zearfaus questioned whether a driving under the influence charge filed against Bowman was valid, pointing out that Crist testified the result of the test showed Bowman’s blood alcohol content to be only 0.04 percent, which is under the legal limit of 0.08 percent.

Assistant District Attorney Pete Weeks argued the statute fit because Bowman’s driving was erratic and unsafe, showing impairment, but conceded he would leave it up to Miller to decide if Bowman’s driving was due to drinking or, as Zearfaus argued, because he was trying to get away from police.

Miller said that argument was one for a higher court and bound that charge, as well as 14 others from the car chase, over for trial.

Miller also found Senior Deputy Attorney General Dave Gorman, who is prosecuting Bowman for his alleged role in the Corner Bar case, showed police had enough evidence to send the eight felony charges from that case on to Blair County Court. Miller heard from state narcotics agents of phone taps and other evidence that implicated Bowman as a cocaine dealer with his own customer base who bought large quantities of the drug from Samuel.

Miller also increased Bowman’s bail on the state’s drug case from $50,000 cash to $75,000 cash. Between the two cases, Bowman’s bail is $150,000 cash.