ELYRIA – An unlicensed driver pulled over for a traffic stop led police on a chase through downtown after the two Elyria police officers on the scene let him back into the vehicle and he grabbed the keys and drove off, police said.
The high-speed chase took place Tuesday evening, and the suspect is still being sought.
“Hopefully, this is a learning experience,’’ Elyria Police Capt. Chris Costantino said. “Certainly, it is something we addressed, and the sergeant made a good decision – they had already identified the person, and we could go back and sign charges without continuing the chase.’’
Police say this is what happened:
Officer Matthew Ehmer, who was hired in January, was traveling northbound on West Avenue near 11th Street at about 8:45 p.m. Tuesday when a white Cadillac Deville tried to turn left from 11th Street to West Avenue, nearly striking the patrol car, Costantino said.
Ehmer pulled the Cadillac over, and Officer Durrell Binford pulled up to assist.
The driver, Tyrell Horton, told officers he did not the see the patrol car before turning. After running his information, officers learned that Horton was driving under a suspended license.
Ehmer observed the smell of alcohol coming from Horton, and asked him to exit the vehicle. Horton told officers he’d only had one beer to drink. He passed the standardized field sobriety tests, and officers did not feel that Horton was impaired.
Horton then gave officers consent to search his vehicle, and no contraband was found.
Officers cited Horton for driving under suspension. Horton was cooperative with officers as they advised him of his citation and court date and time, telling them he understood, Costantino said.
Binford inventoried the vehicle and filled out a tow slip, at which time he took the keys out of the ignition and placed them on the front driver’s seat of the vehicle, according to Costantino.
While waiting for the tow truck to arrive, Horton asked officers if he could retrieve items from the vehicle. Officers stood by the back of the vehicle while Horton appeared to be grabbing items, Costantino said.
That’s when Horton started the vehicle and jumped into the driver’s seat, police said. Ehmer told Horton to turn the vehicle off, at which time Horton put the vehicle in drive and rapidly accelerated.
Ehmer turned on his sirens and began to pursue the vehicle while dispatch was advised of the situation.
According to Costantino, Horton headed north on West Avenue and turned east on 8th Street. He sped up to about 50 mph and didn’t stop at the intersection of Middle and 8th Street, continuing onto 8th Street before turning left on East Avenue without stopping again, police said.
Officer Fred Merrill joined the pursuit northbound on East Avenue.
Traffic was heavy in the area, and after Horton ran a red light at East Avenue and 4th Street, Sgt. Thomas Wade advised officers to halt the pursuit.
Officers observed the vehicle turn westbound on Broad Street then northbound on Washington Avenue. Binford received permission to resume the pursuit because there was no traffic on Washington Avenue, Costantino said.
Binford reported that the vehicle was traveling about 70 mph before turning eastbound on Hamilton Avenue. He was told to stop the pursuit, according to Costantino.
Officers were unable to locate the vehicle after that time.