Avon Lake resident Mike Wallace got scared when he saw cars roaring by his Lake Road home at high speeds the morning of July 13.
“They were easily going over 100 mph,” Wallace said. “I saw two Lorain police cars, two Lorain County sheriff’s deputies cars and two grayish type SUVs all going by, with some of them swerving in and out on the road. My wife was out jogging on the road and my first thought is my wife is out there jogging. Where is she while they were doing this?”
Wallace also was concerned because his children were with him.
“If we had taken just a couple steps out toward that roadway as they were going by, those cars could have killed us at the speed they were going,” Wallace said. “It’s a residential two-lane road and there are children and people on bicycles out on it. Any of them could have been hit.”
The police cruisers were in pursuit of a suspect in the shooting death of a 2-year-old girl and wounding of a 62-year-old woman and 20-year-old man at a West 21st Street home in Lorain, police officials said. Two-year-old Kamily Patterson died from a gunshot wound at Mercy Health Lorain Hospital, officials said.
Lorain police Detective Capt. Roger Watkins said he would neither confirm nor deny that the man being held by police is the man suspected of killing Kamily. He referred comment on the pursuit to the department’s patrol division. As of Friday morning, Lorain patrol supervisors had not returned three phone calls seeking comment on the pursuit. The high-speed chase ended when a red Toyota car crashed on Lake Road near Canterbury Road with Bay Village police getting a call at 10:53 a.m. about the accident.
Lorain police Lt. Ed Super said patrol officers pursued the car because the department has warrants out for the arrest of the man they believed was driving the car.
Bay Village police log entries said the driver who ran away from the accident was a homicide suspect in Lorain. Bay Village and Westlake officers went to the area and caught a man believed to be the driver in the 300 block of Kenilworth Road in about 10 minutes. Lorain officers took the man from the scene and had the car towed. Watkins said officers are continuing to investigate.
Meanwhile, Wallace found his wife was OK, but he later questioned the need for the high speeds.
“All I saw were the police cars going by at those high speeds and thinking about what could have happened if somebody got hit by one of those cars,” Wallace said “I don’t know if the car crashing had already happened or not. I just think there has to be a reason for those kinds of speeds in a residential area.”
Other police departments said pursuits are undertaken only in special circumstances.
“You have to evaluate what’s going on in each instance,” said Lt. Sean Bockelman of the Avon Lake Police Department. What type of road (it) is and what the road conditions are. What’s the weather like? How many other people are out on the roads and nearby? What time of day is it? If it's late at night, for example, in a more open road with no other cars around, you might be able to pursue them more than when there are other people out.”
Bay Village officers are taught to be aware of what’s going on.
“In this case, we didn’t get there until after the crash and officers started looking for the driver,” said Bay Village Chief Kathy Leasure. “You’re not going to initiate a pursuit, or chase someone over something smaller. But when you’re talking about the murder of a 2-year-old girl, you’re going to do a lot to catch someone.”
Fairview Park police will pursue only people suspected of committig major crimes, such as murder, rape and assault, or a drunk or reckless driver who could hurt other drivers, pedestrians or themselves, said Chief Erich Upperman.
“You’re not going to pursue someone over something you would just give them a ticket for,” Upperman said.
Sheffield Village officers will pursue people within village boundaries, said Chief William Visalden.
“If a Lorain officer comes into the (village) in pursuit, we will go to assist the officer, or like other departments, if it’s a potentially dangerous situation or person, we will pursue within the (village),” Visalden said. “But, once we hit the (village) limits we usually will stop.”
Like others, Westlake officers can pursue potentially dangerous suspects or drivers they think are dangerous and could harm others, but they remain aware of the area and circumstances, said Capt. Jerry Vogel.
“Our supervisors are pretty strict about it and will call it off if they think there’s a chance something bad will happen,” Vogel said.
Departments also will check to see if the driver can be picked up another way, such as running a license plate for potential identification or seeing if it's someone they know from other incidents.
“If it’s someone you think you can get later, then a lot of departments will do that and not risk problems from a high-speed chase,” Vogel said.
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