EAST PEORIA — A longtime motoring menace is finally behind bars in Tazewell County, police say.
James Mayernich, 54, of East Peoria is at the county jail under a whopping $100,000 bond, facing a felony count of aggravated assault and a misdemeanor count of reckless driving. Earlier this year, his bothersome antics in East Peoria and Creve Coeur sparked scads of social-media posts and comments, plus a column in this space — but rarely a report to police.
But a recent complaint to East Peoria police ended with his arrest Friday, said East Peoria Police Chief Dick Ganschow, who is glad to finally get Mayernich off the streets.
"The guy is just out there," the chief said.
In August, Facebook exploded locally regarding a four-wheeled bully spooking drivers on the east side of the river. One post got shared 1,600 times and triggered more than 300 comments. Area residents reported that the troublemaker would follow other cars, drive dangerously, take photos and videos, and otherwise scare the public.
Police in East Peoria and Creve Coeur were familiar with the postings. But, they lamented, no victims had bothered to make an official complaint. As Chief Ganschow said at the time, "A Facebook post is not a police report."
That changed late last month. On Oct. 25, an East Peoria man was driving when he stopped for a red light. When the light turned green, the motorist in front of him — later identified as Mayernich — wouldn't budge, Ganschow said.
"That's the kind of crap he does," the chief said.
The East Peorian motored around Mayernich and got onto Interstate 74, with Mayernich following, Ganschow said. Mayernich would switch lanes repeatedly, speeding up and slowing down, in the process moving perilously close to the other driver, Ganschow said. Mayernich also shined a flashlight at the other man, then made a gesture at him by twisting his fingers into the shape of a gun, Ganschow said.
Eventually, Mayernich went his own way, and the other man went home.
"He wasn't going to even report it (to police)," Ganschow said. "Then he told his wife, and she said, 'That's probably the guy on all the Facebook posts.'"
So, two days later, the driver contacted East Peoria police and shared his driving encounter. Saturday, East Peoria police tracked down Mayernich in Creve Coeur and took him to the county jail.
Mayernich would have to post $10,000 cash to earn his freedom. Otherwise, his next court date is the day before Thanksgiving.
PHIL LUCIANO can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org, facebook.com/philluciano and (309) 686-3155. Follow him on Twitter.com/LucianoPhil.