Mo. teen steals police car, leads chase

By Heather Ratcliffe and Matthew Hathaway ST. LOUIS POST-DISPATCH

Copyright 2005 St. Louis Post-Dispatch, Inc. 

A teenager stole an airport police car at Lambert Field and led police on a high-speed pursuit on Interstate 55 that ended near Festus on Monday. The chase ended when the car hit tire deflation spikes, went into a spin and slid into a median.

The incident began about 3:20 p.m. An airport police officer on patrol pulled over in front of the Main Terminal to handle traffic, said Chief Paul Mason. The officer left the car unlocked and running with the keys inside.

The officer had been out of his marked patrol car for about five minutes when he noticed it was missing, Mason said. Dispatchers broadcast a bulletin alerting area police departments to the theft.

Officers caught up with the stolen police car on Interstate 270 about 4 p.m. The driver had turned on the emergency lights and reportedly was driving the wrong way southbound near Interstate 44, police said.

The pursuit continued onto southbound Interstate 55, where the car, now in the correct traffic lanes, was traveling more than 100 mph. When the driver crossed the Meramec River on Interstate 55, more than a dozen squad cars from the Jefferson County sheriff's office and municipal forces joined the chase.

Although the thief twice avoided tire deflation spikes, officers succeeded on a third attempt, near Highway A in Crystal City. The stolen car spun out into a highway median. Officers arrested the driver without incident.

Authorities said there were no reported injuries or serious damage to other automobiles.

The suspect, 18, was being held Monday evening at the Jefferson County Jail in Hillsboro. Mason said airport detectives were going to interview the suspect and present the case to the St. Louis County prosecuting attorney for charges. The suspect's identity was not released.

"I'm just glad no one was hurt," Mason said. "That's the upside of it."  

December 20, 2005

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