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Six injured as truck flees St. Louis police


This news story was published on January 11, 2012.
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Joel Currier and Jonah Newman, St. Louis Post-Dispatch –

ST. LOUIS • A driver ran over a bicyclist and hit several cars, including two police cars, as he left a chaotic trail of violence that St. Louis police were sorting out Tuesday night.

The incident started about 2:20 p.m. with an undercover drug investigation in the 6100 block of Martin Luther King Drive, on the western edge of the city near Wellston.

Officers in unmarked cars pulled in front of and behind a Chevrolet Avalanche and approached the vehicle, according to St. Louis Police Capt. Michael Sack.

That’s when one of the three people in the Avalanche threw a cooler containing what police believe are drugs out of the vehicle, Sack said. Officers had gotten out of an unmarked Chevrolet Impala and were walking toward the Avalanche when it accelerated toward the officers and hit the Impala. The Avalanche then backed into the other unmarked police vehicle, a Ford Expedition.

One of the passengers in the Avalanche reached down, a move police believed might have been for a weapon, Sack said.

The Avalanche was also coming at officers. Fearing for their safety, the officers opened fire, Sack said. The passengers in the Avalanche were hit, but the driver was not shot, police said.

The Avalanche backed up into a driveway on the north side of Martin Luther King Drive, running over a bicyclist, Sack said. Then the driver ran over the cyclist a second time, trapping the man briefly under the truck. Police continued firing at the vehicle, and the Avalanche drove over the man again as it fled.

The cyclist was in critical but stable condition at a hospital Tuesday night.

Ray Brown said he was sitting in a truck with his wife outside a restaurant on King near Hodiamont when he saw the Avalanche back over the bicyclist. Then he saw police with their guns out.

“We just ducked down,” said Brown, 43, of Northwoods.

He heard shots, but isn’t sure what happened. His truck took a bullet, which flattened his right rear tire. He was waiting at about 4:15 p.m. for police to photograph the damage for evidence before getting the flat fixed.

“I’m blessed,” he said. “My wife’s OK and I’m OK. That’s all that matters.”

The Avalanche fled east on Martin Luther King, hitting two other cars at Kingshighway Boulevard and a telephone pole at Deer Street. Two motorists hit at Kingshighway were injured and taken to hospitals.

A few blocks farther east, at Newstead and Aldine avenues, the truck came to a stop as the front left wheel gave way, Sack said. Police caught up to the Avalanche there, and though the driver was still trying to accelerate away, were able to break out the back and side windows and get the three people out.

The driver, and the passengers, a man and a woman who were shot by police, were taken to hospitals. Their conditions were not immediately available.

The male driver, 35,was treated at a hospital for a bump on his head from one of the crashes. The woman, 35, who was riding in the front seat was shot several times. Her condition was not available late Tuesday. The rear passenger, a 29-year-old man, suffered a graze wound to his leg.

“We’re very fortunate,” Sack said. “The suspects drive our response. The suspects’ actions were careless and dangerous, and (they) endangered the lives of officers on the streets. They also endangered a lot of different people.”

Police now say there’s no evidence anyone in the Avalanche fired shots, correcting an earlier report that they had fired at police. Police did not find any weapons inside the Avalanche.

The officers who fired shots during the incident were all men: one, 38, has been on the force 10 years; another, 42, has been on the force 14 years; and the third, 44, has 18 years with the department.

As is department policy, the officers were put on paid administrative leave while the incident is investigated, police said.

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