BLOOMINGTON — Charges are likely to be filed Friday against the man who fled downtown Bloomington on Wednesday at high speed after colliding with a Bloomington police unit in what officials say was a stolen Jeep.
The 26-year-old man was arrested in Peoria and booked into McLean County jail Wednesday afternoon on six initial charges including manufacturing and distribution of a look-alike drug, aggravated fleeing, obstructing justice, reckless driving, driving on a suspended license and possession of a stolen vehicle. The man said he had no address and was listed as homeless.
The Pantagraph does not name suspects in such cases until formal charges are filed.
The crash happened about noon near Main and Jefferson streets as the Bloomington police street crimes unit was doing a drug investigation, said Bloomington police spokesman John Fermon.
During the attempted arrest, the suspect parked his vehicle on Main Street, south of Jefferson Street and fled on foot, he said. Several officers joined the pursuit, including BPD's canine unit, but the suspect circled back and got back into the vehicle he was previously driving and tried to drive away.
"A street crimes officer drove his squad and attempted to park in front of the suspect's vehicle in order to stop the driver in the stolen vehicle from fleeing," he said. "The suspect rammed into the front of the BPD squad car, damaging his vehicle and damaging the squad car. The suspect continued driving recklessly downtown. He drove over several signs and damaged other property downtown as he fled from officers and drove west out of town."
Witnesses described the suspect's vehicle as a silver Jeep with Michigan plates. Police learned it was stolen, Fermon said. The vehicles collided at Main and Jefferson, said Fermon.
"At one point there would have been several squad cars there," said Fermon. "As part of our drug investigations, our street crimes unit will pin a vehicle in to stop it from fleeing.”
"They had him stop. He parked his car, but he ran," said Fermon."There was a short foot chase. The suspect actually ran back to the (stolen vehicle) and got back in."
The Jeep knocked over a street sign and a trash can at the corner of Jefferson and Main streets. A vehicle nearby was damaged when the trash can was pushed into it, said Fermon
The suspect then drove off "at a high rate of speed through downtown," said Fermon.
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"Our officers didn't pursue the vehicle," said Fermon."It's a dangerous situation when you've got a vehicle driving recklessly through a highly populated area. You never know what to expect. If a vehicle hits a person walking it could be fatal.
"If we chase a fleeing car that's driving recklessly at high rate of speed, the potential of our community to be in that danger outweighs the gain that we would have with the drug investigation," he added.
The Jeep later was reported to be heading west on Interstate 74.
A witness told The Pantagraph that as she traveling west in the left lane on the interstate around 1 p.m. Wednesday, a silver Jeep with Michigan license plates passed her in the right lane. A squad car traveling behind the Jeep without its lights and siren on also passed her in the right lane.
There were no reports of injuries.
“It was crazy,” said one witness who was walking in downtown Bloomington and witnessed the incident. “I saw a Jeep speed down the street ... and hit a bunch of (stuff)."
"ISP (Illinois State Police) was behind (the fleeing vehicle) but didn't pursue it either just because of how recklessly it was driving," said Fermon. "I believe Peoria (Police Department) was actually able to stop him."
"A subject wanted stemming from an incident in Bloomington (was) apprehended in Peoria and turned over to Bloomington," said Peoria police public information officer Amy Dotson on Wednesday night.
Fermon said he could not provide any further details, including whether drugs were recovered from the Jeep.
When the squad car turned on its lights at the Morton exit, the Jeep sped up and left the interstate at that exit ramp, the witness said.