Photo credit: Washita County Undersheriff Brian Beck, left, and Burns Flat Officer Kristian Willhight
Burns Flat Police Officer Kristian Willhight and Washita County Undersheriff Brian Beck died when their vehicles crashed into each other on while pursuing a suspect Thursday.
Photo credit: KOCO-TV via YouTube
DILL CITY, Okla. -- A Washita County undersheriff and a Burns Flat police officer died Thursday when the lawmen’s vehicles crashed into each other in a rural intersection south of Dill City during a high-speed pursuit, Oklahoma Highway Patrol officials reported.
The two lawmen — identified as Burns Flat police officer Kristian Willhight, 36, and Washita County Undersheriff Brian Beck, 39 — were chasing Quentin Lee Johnson, 27, of Sentinel, who was killed in a separate crash minutes earlier when he drove his vehicle off the road and into an embankment.
Johnson fled from authorities Thursday morning when the undersheriff attempted to serve him an arrest warrant.
Following a tip, Beck, the undersheriff, went to Johnson’s home last month and found drugs, used drug needles and a stolen pistol, according to documents filed in Washita County District Court. The undersheriff also could see gun ammunition on a table and a syringe in a trash can.
Johnson told Beck he had been clean for three years but recently had begun using methamphetamine again, as well as selling the drug to make money, records show.
The undersheriff said he was going to submit his report to the district attorney and warned Johnson he probably would return with an arrest warrant.
He was attempting to serve that warrant Thursday when Johnson fled, said Lt. Brian Orr, a spokesman for the Oklahoma Highway Patrol. Johnson’s pickup was traveling south on a blacktop road when he crossed the northbound lane, went off the road, through a fence and into a 10-foot embankment or ravine. The crash was reported at 10:11 a.m.
The two lawmen crashed minutes later in an intersection three miles away, Orr said.
Neither was wearing a seat belt, the patrol reported.
Gail O’Neil, of Cordell, was at the crash site within 30 minutes of the collision. O’Neil said the two law enforcement vehicles crashed and then went onto her mother’s property, about 200 feet from the house. Law enforcement from across the area came out to show support for their fellow officers. She counted 30 people at one point, she said.
“I watched them embrace. I watched it all, and it is hard when it’s this close to home. It’s just sad,” O’Neil said.
She said the intersection is dangerous because people travel on both roads to avoid the main highways near the town.
“My mom has always said that there is going to be a horrible wreck here because we see fender-benders all the time. We see near-misses,” O’Neil said.
Records show Johnson was sentenced to five years in prison in 2006 for possession of a controlled dangerous substance. He was released in 2011.
It is the second death of a Washita County law enforcement officer in the past year. On April 21, Washita County sheriff’s deputy Douglas Hanna, 44, died in a crash one mile west of Corn on his way to a call. Hanna’s pickup was hit by another pickup driven by a 17-year-old driver.
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McClatchy-Tribune News Service