Bridge-crossing chase ends with arrest
29-year-old leads police on two-hour pursuit
By Scott Moyers ~ Southeast Missourian
A Cape Girardeau County man led police on a high-speed chase for two tense hours Tuesday afternoon, using a stolen luxury van to force cars off the road, dodge road spikes and hit several squad cars and one pedestrian vehicle before finally being stopped in southern Illinois more than 30 miles from where the pursuit began.
Police would not identify the 29-year-old man until he is charged, which they expect sometime today. He was being held Tuesday night at the Cape Girardeau city jail.
However, John Gilmore, owner of C & G Feed and Supply in rural Jackson, said that the suspect was his nephew, Richard Ryan Gilmore. John Gilmore said someone had broken into his feed supply shop and stole the company van Monday night.
Gilmore said that his nephew had been in minor trouble before, but never anything so serious.
"He won't do it again," Gilmore said. "If I catch him, he won't be able to drive."
The suspect led police into Illinois three times, police said, coming back and forth into Cape Girardeau and at one point driving south on Interstate 55 where he nearly hit a Missouri State Highway Patrol trooper who was putting down stop sticks, a device used for puncturing tires. The man drove into the median to avoid those and made several U-turns.
The driver faces a multitude of charges, including auto theft, leaving the scene of an accident, assaulting a police officer when he struck the patrol cars, failure to stop, speeding, failure to yield to an emergency vehicle, and careless and imprudent driving. Other charges could be filed, police said.
"We were incredibly lucky no one was killed," said Cape Girardeau police detective Jimmy Smith, one of the officers involved in the chase. "That easily could have happened with the way he was driving."
A Cape Girardeau woman suffered minor neck injuries after the van struck her car near the intersection of Highway 146 and Highway 3, but she declined medical treatment and told authorities she would go to the hospital herself.
Pursuits in general are dangerous, said police Capt. Carl Kinnison. "We always have to be concerned about motorists and the driver of the vehicle and our officers," he said. "Those are the sort of things that go through your mind as a police officer. We have to weigh the risk of someone getting hurt versus capturing the person."
Kinnison said that it could have been worse.
"But the fastest it ever got was 85 mph," he said. "In the whole scheme of things, as far as high speed pursuits go, that's not that fast. People are stopped for speeding all the time going 80 mph."
Police are still investigating the matter, but said the incident started about 3:30 p.m. when a Cape Girardeau police officer noticed a white, 1992 Ford Econoline near the Mississippi River bridge that had been reported stolen the night before.
The officer called for back up and attempted to stop the van, but the driver ignored the sirens and lights. Another patrol car, which had positioned itself near Spanish and Morgan Oak, was hit by the van as it crossed the bridge and drove into southern Illinois. The officer whose vehicle was hit recognized the driver, police said.
The driver, racing the van at about 80 mph, went to Thebes, Ill., where he was intermittently followed by police. But at the Cape Girardeau officers were ordered to stop chasing him.
"Our unmarked car continued to follow him, but at some point, you have to ask yourself is this safe to continue?" Kinnison said. "The way he was driving, obviously he was a danger to other motorists. It's not always worth it to chase someone."
Kinnison said they will pursue suspects in extreme circumstances, such as when someone has been killed or might kill others.
After they lost sight of the suspect, the police were joined by the Illinois State Police and Cape Girardeau County Sheriff's Department in looking for him in Thebes. Then, about 30 minutes later, the suspect was spotted heading back across the bridge into Cape Girardeau.
"We sure weren't expecting him to come back," Kinnison said.
Then the driver headed to Interstate 55 and drove toward Scott City. But he then returned to Cape Girardeau and drove into Illinois, where he sped down Highway 3 to Highway 127 toward Cairo, with the Illinois State Police and police officers from Tamms, Ill., and Cairo and an unmarked Cape Girardeau police car following. During the chase, the driver hit two Cairo police cars. Police also estimate he ran about 20 other cars off the road.
Eventually, the driver drove the van off the road just south of Cairo on Highway 51. He was arrested and taken to jail.
After the suspect was caught, he was calm, said the detective.
"He said he thought about stopping and jumping off the bridge," Smith said. "I guess I wouldn't have chased him in there."
-- Southeast Missourian staff writer Bob Miller contributed to this report.
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