MIAMI TWP., Montgomery County - A 19-year-old suspected burglar, who fled police after ramming a cruiser and slammed head-on into a small car and van just before noon Monday, died after the crash.
The chase began after officers heard a broadcast of a burglary in Washington Twp.
Having previous information on two suspects in a string of burglaries in the two townships, a Miami Twp. sergeant, on a hunch, went to an address in the 2000 block of Mardell Drive to see if the car described in the burglary
might show up, according to Miami Twp. Deputy Police Chief John DiPietro. The car, a Chevrolet Caprice, did appear, so the sergeant pulled his cruiser up, blocking the suspect's car in the driveway, DiPietro said. Rather than give up, the driver - identified Monday night at Andrew Barnhart - backed into the cruiser, then took off, hitting the side of the brick ranch house and escaping through a neighbor's backyard. DiPietro said Miami Twp. police have a policy about when officers should pursue a suspect vehicle.
"But the officer, it's his or her choice, too, if they want to pursue given the circumstances," he said.
He said in the case of violent felonies, there isn't really a question of whether to pursue or not.
"When you have someone react to a police officer in a violent manner, then that sets the stage," for a pursuit, DiPietro said.
DiPietro said the decision to pursue a fleeing criminal is fraught with danger and not arrived at easily.
"We had a decision to make. The suspect had shown an intent to harm officers. What do you think he would do to the average civilian?" DiPietro said.
A Dayton Daily News investigation earlier this year found that from 1994 to 2002 nationwide, there were 2,654 fatal crashes in such pursuits, involving 3,965 vehicles that killed 3,146 people. Of those killed, 1,088, or 35 percent, were not in the fleeing vehicle, according to one study.
During the Miami Twp. chase, the driver's 17-yearold passenger bailed out and attempted to flee on foot. He apparently fell into a ditch and was quickly apprehended by the sergeant. The teen was taken to a local hospital for a possible leg injury.
DiPietro said the 17-year-old was wanted on an assault warrant and had been listed as a missing juvenile.
DiPietro said the driver called his mother who was at the Mardell residence and told her police were chasing him. She told him to pull over. He didn't and a few minutes later went left of center just before Austin Boulevard, hitting a red Toyota Matrix and a van.
The fleeing vehicle and the Matrix were demolished. The driver of the Matrix was taken to Miami Valley Hospital and was in serious condition. The driver of the van suffered minor injuries.
Steve Sidenstick was eating his lunch with a landscaping crew parked in the shade just north of the Austin Boulevard and Ohio 741 intersection.
"I heard a big bang. It was the worst noise I ever heard," he said. When he got to the scene, the suspect was trying to extricate himself from beneath the steering wheel as police officers, weapons in hand, surrounded the demolished vehicle.
The deputy chief declined to identify the two suspects or the Matrix driver. The Ohio Highway Patrol is investigating the traffic accident, while Washington and Miami townships' police are investigating the burglary.
The driver's death is the second this year linked to a police chase.
On May 11, Warren County sheriff's Sgt. Brian Dulle was killed when an alleged stolen car hit him as he was attempting to set out Stop Sticks to end a police chase by puncturing the fleeing vehicle's tires.
Contact this reporter at (937) 225-2290 or dpage@Dayton DailyNews.com.