By Rick Yencer
The Indianapolis Star
MUNCIE, Ind. - A joy ride with three Ball State University students in the back seat of a Muncie police car early Tuesday ended in a crash and could cost patrol officer Jason Lyons his job.
"I would have fired him this morning if I had the authority," said Police Chief Joe Winkle.
The wreck, in front of LaFollette complex on McKinley Avenue, caused a head laceration to one of the students, Stacy Walters, 19, Rogers Hall, who was treated at Ball Memorial Hospital along with Billie Reed, 19, and Sommer Redmon, 19, both of Brady Hall.
Lyons, 38, who was uninjured, was immediately put on administrative leave, pending disciplinary action by Muncie Police Merit Commission.
Winkle said he would recommend firing the 6-year veteran for endangering the students who asked for a ride and for initially lying about the crash.
"He was basically showing off for three college girls," said Winkle.
Lyons apparently met the three BSU freshmen at a Village Pantry at University Avenue and Martin Street before 1 a.m. and one of the students asked for a ride back to the dorm, according to statements by Lyons and the students. Lyons was not on a call and there were no reports that he was running lights and sirens.
Instead of going to the dorm, Lyons raced down University to Tillotson and Bethel avenues and then to McKinley, before crashing into a light pole in front of LaFollette.
"There is no debate that he was driving at too high a rate of speed," said Winkle.
Before calling in the accident, witnesses told police that Lyons told the girls to get out of the car and leave the scene.
Winkle said Lyons also denied he had passengers in the car to other police officers at the scene, including his supervisor, police Sgt. Kirk Mace.
"(Lyons) told some mistruths," said Mace, who arrived at the scene with Ball State University police.
As many as 50 students and others gathered at the scene, and Winkle said witnesses even confronted Lyons, who argued with some students about whether the girls were in the car.
"We have witness statements that saw him let them out and heard him say, 'Get out of here," Winkle said.
Lyons later admitted to police he had given the students a ride, saying they were just having fun, but the police chief said the three students said they were scared, given Lyons was driving fast enough to rock them from one side of the car to the other.
Police uniform, traffic and internal affairs officers investigated the crash, which did as much as $10,000 damage to a 2007 police car.
There was no indication that alcohol, drugs or sex were involved, Winkle said.
While the chief can suspend an officer for up to 10 days, the merit commission has authority over firing as well as hiring officers.
Copyright 2007 The Indianapolis Star
Ind. officer faces firing over joy ride, crash