By Melanie Williamson
On Thursday, October 12, Officer Randall Krichbaum was parked in the Mackenzie Woods parking lot conducting traffic enforcement when he reported observing a motorcycle traveling west on Liberty Avenue at a high rate of speed. Krichbaum reported that he activated the Tru Speed laser S and clocked the motorcycle at 71 mph in a 50 mph zone.
When Krichbaum pulled out and activated his lights and sirens, he reported the motorcycle sped up. Krichbaum also reported witnessing the motorcycle run several red lights and swerve into the turning lane and oncoming traffic lane as it traveled. Krichbaum stated he continued to pursue the motorcycle due to there being light traffic at the time.
The motorcycle turned into South Shore Plaza and cut through to Vermilion Road. Krichbaum reported he followed the motorcycle to Jerusalem Road until the motorcycle went out of view.
Officer Rickie Riggs was at the police station when he heard Officer Krichbaum radio in that he was pursuing a motorcycle. Riggs reported he took Route 2 to Baumhart and existed. He stated he saw a motorcycle traveling north on Baumhart traveling at approximately 40 mph. Riggs was not sure if it was the same motorcycle. However, when Riggs pulled out onto the road, and the operator of the motorcycle saw him, he made a U-turn and took up at a high rate of speed in the other direction.
When the motorcycle made the U-turn, Officer Riggs reported seeing a passenger. After a short pursuit, Riggs stopped pursuing out of concern for the safety of the passenger.
While high-speed chases are not a typical occurrence in Vermilion, the department has a clear policy regarding vehicular pursuit and officers are trained in how to react in this situation. When deciding whether or not to pursue a fleeing vehicle, an officer has to make a judgment call based on several conditions including the road and weather conditions, population density and traffic, and the known presence of passengers. The ability to identify the vehicle’s owner is also a factor.
In this case, Officer Krishbaum reported that he continued the pursuit because the traffic was light on Liberty Avenue, which decreased the risk of someone getting injured. Officer Riggs, ended the pursuit after observing a passenger on the motorcycle because of the risk to the passenger. According to the department policy, “There are no easy answers when it comes to deciding when to continue or terminate a high-speed pursuit. The U.S. Supreme court has observed that officers making these decisions are often given the…choices between two evils.”
Officers must also decide if there is a greater danger by not pursuing the vehicle than there is pursuing the vehicle. The department policy addresses this fact, “A suspect willing to travel at high-speeds and exhibiting erratic and violent behavior is a serious threat to the general public, with or without the presence of the officer.” While high-speed chances are inherently dangerous, letting the driver go also creates a danger.
Neither officer was able to see or identify the driver due to the driver wearing a full coverage black helmet. If they had been able to identify the driver, the pursuit could have been ended sooner because they would have been able to locate the driver at a later time under safer conditions. Officer Krichbaum maintained communication throughout the incident, which enabled Officer Riggs to find the motorcycle after Krichbaum lost sight of it.