CARLISLE TWP. — Ohio Highway Patrol officials say they’ll review video footage of a police pursuit that was recorded by a trooper’s dashboard camera on Thursday, largely as a matter of policy.
Elyria resident Michael Spreng, 44, is accused of stealing his wife’s SUV Thursday and leading Trooper Christopher Ausse on a miles-long chase through Oberlin and LaGrange and Carlisle townships before ditching the vehicle in a bean field and taking off on foot.
He was later caught using a North Ridgeville police dog and charged with DUI, felony fleeing and eluding and other offenses.
Patrol Lt. Tony Bradshaw said administrators in Columbus will review the video footage of the 10-minute car chase and determine what, if anything, should have been done differently.
“We’re always reviewing and making sure things are going the direction we want them to go,” Bradshaw said.
Bradshaw said there’s no time frame for the review, but a Highway Patrol panel will offer recommendations if they’re needed.
“They could say he did everything right, or the trooper needs more training,” Bradshaw said. “Whatever benefits the citizens.”
Bradshaw said chases involving Highway Patrol troopers are carefully examined since traffic-related incidents are the main thrust of the patrol’s duties.
“We put 30,000 miles in a year on our patrol cars,” Bradshaw said. “That’s what we do for a living — educate and enforce traffic laws. The best thing we can do is educate people on how to make those (traffic-related) decisions.”
Patrol officials say each chase offers unique circumstances that require officers to think on their feet.
“It’s like a snowflake,” Bradshaw said. “The total circumstances around each pursuit are not duplicated, so we train our guys to make good judgments and look at the scope of everything that’s going on.”
During Thursday’s chase, Trooper Ausse crossed paths with Spreng at state Routes 58 and 20 as Spreng passed two cars and a tractor-trailer in a no-passing zone.
Ausse said he activated his overhead lights and gave chase, but Spreng pulled into the parking lot of an ice cream store and nearly plowed into a crowd when he tried to turn around.
Bradshaw said the citizens walking or standing in the path of the pursuit play a large role in determining whether a trooper will chase a fleeing car.
“Are there citizens walking around? That’s absolutely something we’d take into consideration,” Bradshaw said.
After the ice cream store, the chase progressed along miles of rural, two-lane roads in the townships, including Nickelplate Diagonal, Whitehead and Biggs roads.
“(A trooper) is more likely to pursue if it’s in the back areas (of the county),” Bradshaw said.
Ausse likely didn’t know that Spreng was intoxicated, Bradshaw said, but he likely saw that his driving was a danger to other motorists —even if police weren’t chasing him.
Ausse said Spreng had been driving erratically, and he was going as fast as 90 mph.
“We don’t know what that driver is,” Bradshaw said. “Medicated, sleepy, or is there some other thing — epileptic shock? (The trooper) doesn’t know until he gets up there.”
Spreng’s driving posed an immediate risk, Bradshaw said.
“He’s what we could consider an aggressive driver who could hurt someone else, ultimately,” Bradshaw said. “He’s driving a 2,500-pound weapon. Our objective is to get him from behind the wheel.”
Besides the location of the chase and the volume of pedestrian or car traffic in the area, troopers also consider weather conditions, and the nature of the offense committed by the fleeing driver.
“All that information is being relayed back to the dispatcher ... and the supervisor will monitor that,” Bradshaw said.
Contact Shawn Foucher at 329-7197 or firstname.lastname@example.org.