A high-speed pursuit sent two Kootenai County sheriff’s deputies to the hospital and one man to jail early Tuesday.
The chase began with a stolen van in Coeur d’Alene and ended in a four-vehicle pileup in Post Falls, according to law enforcement reports.
Deputy Darrell Stidham’s arm was broken and Deputy Gary Dagastine’s knee was sprained in the wreck. It also sent Stidham’s sheriff’s dog, Enno, to the veterinarian, said sheriff’s Lt. Nile Shirley.
Kootenai County prosecutors charged Randy Cox, 25, of Caldwell, Idaho, with eluding a police officer and grand theft. He is being held at Kootenai County Jail in lieu of $30,000 bail.
About 3 a.m. Tuesday, Tracy Lee of Coeur d’Alene reported that his green van had been stolen from outside of his motel room.
A Coeur d’Alene police officer spotted the speeding van on Northwest Boulevard, according to the police report. The officer tried to get the van to stop, but the driver blasted through a red light and headed west on Seltice Way.
Two sheriff’s deputies set up a partial roadblock and laid down a set of spikes on Seltice Way, said sheriff’s Sgt. Ray Danly. But the van’s tires didn’t blow as the vehicle rolled over the spikes.
Stidham and Dagastine followed the van as it raced down the middle of the two-lane road, reaching speeds of up to 80 mph.
The van took a sudden left turn onto Compton Street, said Idaho State Police Cpl. Pete Bowes. It cut across Deputy Stidham’s path and rammed into a tow truck that was parked on the side of the road.
Stidham then rammed his patrol car into both the van and the tow truck. Unable to stop in time, Deputy Dagastine also rammed his car into the back of the van, Bowes said.
Police arrested Cox, the driver of the van, along with Mark A. Dolan, a passenger. Cox was treated for minor injuries at Kootenai Medical Center and Dolan told police Cox had picked him up in the van but didn’t tell him it was stolen. No charges were filed against the 25-year-old Hayden man.
Stidham and Dagastine were taken to Kootenai Medical Center where they were treated and released. Stidham’s dog Enno, which was in the patrol car when it crashed, also was checked by a veterinarian as a precaution, said Shirley.
The tow truck driver, Seth Gill, 39, of Coeur d’Alene, also was taken to the hospital where he was treated and released.
Bowes said his preliminary investigation shows the deputies were not at fault in the accident.
Danly said the Sheriff’s Department tries to make sure pursuits don’t jeopardize the public. Officers will stop chasing suspected criminals if they fear it’s too dangerous.
On Tuesday, the officers decided to continue chasing the fleeing van driver because there was little traffic on the roads at that time of the morning and the van was not going through a residential neighborhood, Danly said.
“This was a serious felony crime. There was a minimum of jeopardy to the public.” Danly said. “If we don’t make a reasonable attempt to stop the crime, then what are we out there for?”
xxxx Other accidents Other recent car accidents involving local law enforcement officers include: On March 28, 1995, a driver pulled out in front of Post Falls police officer Patrick Knight as he was on his way to an emergency call. Knight was treated at KMC and released. On Sept. 3, 1994, a man suspected of drunken driving crashed his car head on into a car driven by volunteer Rathdrum police officer Daniel Martinez. Martinez suffered broken ribs and neurological damage to an eye. John Pfeiler was charged with aggravated driving under the influence of alcohol and is scheduled to go to trial July 17. On March 2, 1994, Keith Ford slammed his truck into Deputy Tim Parker’s patrol car during a chase. Parker’s arm was shattered in four places. Ford was charged with aggravated battery on a peace officer and eluding a police officer. He was ordered to spend a minimum of two years in prison, according to court records.