By Mike Householder
DETROIT — A 911 recording obtained by The Associated Press via a Freedom of Information Act request shows how a western Michigan emergency dispatcher was able to calmly persuade an agitated man to pull over and end a lengthy high-speed police pursuit.
On Feb. 28, six police cars chased Luis Bonilla-Machado through Holland and into Allegan County. But after an 8-minute chat with Allegan Central dispatcher Tammy Gane, the 25-year-old Holland resident agreed to slow down and eventually surrender.
Bonilla-Machado faces felony charges related to the chase and will be sentenced on April 30.
That February morning, Bonilla-Machado "got high" and had a fight with his wife, who later called police out of fear that "he might be suicidal," said his lawyer, Don Hann.
Police spotted Bonilla-Machado's car just before 7 a.m. The chase began when he ran a red light, said Holland police Capt. Jack Dykstra. During the chase, Bonilla-Machado called 911, and Gane picked up.
"Allegan County 911. Where's your emergency," she asked, the sounds of police sirens audible.
"They're chasing me. I'm running," Bonilla-Machado said.
Gane responded: "Why are you running?"
"My wife is making up stuff about me," he said.
"Well, if it's not true, then, can you just pull over and talk to them so they can get it all straightened out," Gane said.
"They're not gonna talk to me," he said.
"All they want to do is talk to you and find out what's going on so they can get your side of the story," Gane said.
The conversation continued for several more minutes with a distressed Bonilla-Machado complaining that the police were "too close" and demanding that they shut off their overhead lights.
"How fast are you going, Luis," Gane asked.
"About 80," Bonilla-Machado responded.
"80? OK, I want you to slow down to like 30. Start slowing down, OK? Start hitting your brakes," Gane said. "Hit your brakes, then they'll slow down."
"OK. Tell them. Tell them," he said.
Bonilla-Machado finally came to a stop near the Lake Michigan community of Saugatuck.
"Did you stop," Gane asked.
Bonilla-Machado responded, "Yeah."
"Put your car in park," Gane said. "Is your car in park? Luis? Luis? Are you stopped? Luis," she asked. An officer at the scene can be heard, yelling: "Open the (expletive) door! Open the (expletive) door!"
Dykstra said Bonilla-Machado told the officer that he had fled because "he was scared, didn't want to go to the hospital for a mental evaluation, and he had an `8-ball' of crack cocaine in his car.
"We only found remnants on his face and nostrils, and he was taken to the hospital for treatment," Dykstra said. Bonilla-Machado has pleaded to felony charges of fleeing and eluding and cocaine possession.
Police and supervisors have praised Gane for the composure she displayed throughout the call.
Dykstra credited Gane's "calm voice and reason" for peacefully ending what could have been a disastrous end to the chase.
"She was empathetic to the situation, thinking of his safety as well as the officers responding," said Tammy Bruce, assistant director of Allegan Central Dispatch. "Tammy remained calm and collected throughout the entirety of the call."
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