LAKE TAHOE, Calif. – The South Lake Tahoe man who led multiple law enforcement agencies on a high-speed pursuit in El Dorado County and Sacramento in May was indicted by a federal grand jury today on two counts.
Christopher Louis Wadstein, 31, was charged with being a felon in possession of a firearm and possession with intent to distribute methamphetamine, U.S. Attorney McGregor W. Scott announced Thursday. If convicted he faces up to 50 years in prison and $5,250,000 fine.
Wadstein had been in the El Dorado County Jail in South Lake Tahoe since his arrest on May 21. He was transported to Sacramento County earlier this week by detectives from the South Lake Tahoe Police Department (SLTPD).
In May of 2018, burglars stole several firearms from a car parked outside a hotel in the 3600 block of Lake Tahoe Boulevard in South Lake Tahoe. Officers from SLTPD learned the firearms were in Wadstein’s possession and were able to locate a car he had rented. Inside they found a backpack with five handguns and ammunition in it which were all confirmed to have been among those stolen from the car outside the hotel.
Wadstein was arrested and admitted to having received the guns and ammunition and stashing them in his car, according to court documents.
Wadstein had two prior state felony convictions for endangering public safety while fleeing from the police, and one felony conviction for being a felon in possession of a firearm. Because of these convictions, Wadstein is prohibited from possessing firearms.
Wadstein was charged in El Dorado County Superior Court on the firearms charges but fled before his preliminary hearing. The court issued a bench warrant for his failure to appear.
“He bounced between North Dakota and Douglas County,” said SLTPD Lt. Shannon Laney in May 2019. “We got word from North Dakota he was on his way to Sacramento to buy drugs and guns.”
On May 21, 2019, SLTPD detectives were watching for Wadstein in the Sacramento area and when spotted on Highway 50 in El Dorado County the sheriff’s office attempted to pull him over. Wadstein was heading back to South Lake Tahoe according to police. A high-speed pursuit ensued but law enforcement backed off when the chase became unsafe for the public. Wadstein was then spotted in Sacramento on Highway 50 where law enforcement tried to once again pull him over. Another high-speed pursuit began this time during rush hour traffic. Wadstein hit other cars during the chase and at times drove in the wrong direction at speeds up to 100 mph. The chase ended with his truck catching fire on a levee road.
Wadstein was forced to abandon the truck and flee on foot, all caught on film by KCRA-TV. As he ran, he scattered a bag of methamphetamine he was carrying. Ultimately, he was unable to escape police on foot and surrendered. Officers later recovered approximately 335 grams of methamphetamine from the ground where Wadstein had discarded it.
This case is the product of an investigation by the South Lake Tahoe Police Department, the Bismarck Police Department, the El Dorado County District Attorney’s Office, the California Highway Patrol, and the Federal Bureau of Investigation. Assistant U.S. Attorney James R. Conolly will be prosecuting the case.
If convicted of the count of being a felon in possession of a firearm, Wadstein faces a statutory maximum sentence of 10 years in prison and a $250,000 fine. If convicted of the possession of methamphetamine with the intent to distribute count, he faces a maximum statutory penalty of 40 years in prison and a $5 million fine. Any sentence, however, would be determined at the discretion of the court after consideration of any applicable statutory factors and the Federal Sentencing Guidelines, which take into account a number of variables. The charges are only allegations; the defendant is presumed innocent until and unless proven guilty beyond a reasonable doubt.
This case is part of Project Safe Neighborhoods (PSN), a program bringing together all levels of law enforcement and the communities they serve to reduce violent crime and make our neighborhoods safer for everyone. The Department of Justice reinvigorated PSN in 2017 as part of the Department’s renewed focus on targeting violent criminals, directing all U.S. Attorney’s Offices to work in partnership with federal, state, local, and tribal law enforcement and the local community to develop effective, locally-based strategies to reduce violent crime.
Author: Josh Ketcham
I trained and conducted executive protection 4 over 40 years. If you have any questions on using lethal fire give us a call. View all posts by Josh Ketcham