A Cape Girardeau man, one who police say had been making threats with a high-powered rifle just moments before, was killed Tuesday after a slow-speed police pursuit when the car he was driving veered off the roadway and into a tree.
James M. Pyles, 35, was transported by ambulance to Saint Francis Medical Center and pronounced dead at 6:43 a.m., according to Cape Girardeau County Coroner John Clifton. No autopsy will be necessary, Clifton said, citing massive trauma as the likely cause of death. Toxicology results are expected within a month, he said, to determine if alcohol or drugs were a factor.
"It was a horrific crash," Clifton said.
The incident began about 75 minutes before Pyle's official time of death, when police were dispatched to deal with a disturbance outside an apartment building at 618 North St., said Cape Girardeau Police Department spokesman Darin Hickey. A caller told police that the man was in the rear parking lot threatening a person with a rifle, Hickey said.
Officers made contact with witnesses and saw the suspect, later identified as Pyles, leaving the parking lot in a 2002 Dodge Stratus. Officers attempted to stop the car, Hickey said, but the driver refused to pull over.
With lights and sirens blaring, two police cruisers took pursuit as Pyles drove northbound on Perryville Road.
In what Hickey described as "strange behavior," Pyles obeyed the traffic rules during the pursuit that never elevated to high speeds.
"He stopped at stop signs," Hickey said. "He even used his turn signal when he came to the intersection. He'd stop at one and the officers would think that he was giving up, but he'd take off again.
"He never even sped up until he reached Perryville Road when he was trying to get away from the officers."
Shortly after Pyles hit the gas pedal, the chase was over. The pursuit -- the whole incident, in fact -- started and ended quickly, according to police accounts. When Pyle's vehicle ran off the roadway at 5:41 a.m., it was just 10 minutes after the call to 911 was made.
A firearm similar to one described by witnesses was found inside Pyle's car, Hickey said.
Now, police are trying to piece together what took place in the minutes, and perhaps hours, before they were dispatched. Statements have been taken from those who were outside the apartment building Tuesday morning, he said. Officers knocked on doors later Tuesday, police said. The department, Hickey said, is not going to let the matter rest simply because the suspect who may have been involved in an altercation is dead.
"We want to make sure there are no other victims, that no one was injured," Hickey said. "We want to follow-up and make sure we have done our due diligence."
Other arrests do not seem likely, Hickey said, and an incident report will not be completed for up to two weeks.
Court documents show that Pyle's run-in with police on Tuesday was not his first, however.
Pyles pleaded guilty to weapons charges in 1995 and 2009, court documents show, with the latter charge also specifying he was intoxicated at the time. In 2005, he admitted to driving under the influence of intoxicants.
Still, Charlotte Pyles on Tuesday wanted the public to know that there was more to her son than what happened Tuesday morning. In a brief interview, she acknowledged that her son, and the father of five of her grandchildren, had made mistakes. She knows that he didn't always make the right choices.
Still, she said, "he was a good-hearted person. Sure, he had problems in the past and he was going through a difficult time. He would help anybody, sometimes even when he probably shouldn't have."
And she shrugged off any talk of having questions surrounding her son's death.
"There's not one answer in the world that can bring my son back," she said.
618 North St., Cape Girardeau, MO
Perryville Road and Rotary Drive, Cape Girardeau, MO