08/13/2007

Ind. patrolman dies from crash during pursuit

By Danielle Braff
The Indiana Post-Tribune
Officer Down: Officer Benjamin Wilcher

GARY, Ind. A 28-year-old police officer died Sunday from injuries he suffered in a car accident after he crashed into another police car during a chase.

Patrolman Benjamin Wilcher was chasing a suspect late Saturday, when his vehicle collided with one driven by Patrolman Arthur Lemme at 35th Avenue and Virginia Street in Gary.

Wilcher and Lemme were taken to The Methodist Hospitals in Gary before Wilcher was flown to St. James Hospital in Olympia Fields, Ill.

Wilcher did not survive the surgery to repair his broken bones and his internal injuries, the Chicago medical examiner said. Lemme remained at Methodist on Sunday evening in stable condition, having broken some bones.

The suspect being chased by Wilcher and Lemme was still at large, said Gary Lt. Del Stout, who declined to detail the suspect's crimes.

Wilcher, who lived in Gary with his wife and two children, including one born in May, joined the Gary police department two years ago, and was assigned to the midnight division, Stout said.

"He was real eager, real dedicated," Stout said. "It's a tremendous loss."

Wilcher made headlines last year after working with other officers to discover an 8-year-old child who was left at home alone during a burglary, leading to the mother's arrest.

Lemme was also a new officer, having been on the force since February 2006.

Reached at his hospital bed, Lemme said he didn't want to talk about the accident, but said he was "fine."

Gary Mayor Rudy Clay said Wilcher's death was a terrible loss for Gary.

"No words that I can state could really console the family or console the community," Clay said. "It was a police officer who was doing his duty, and certainly my sympathy and condolences go out to the family."

The city will memorialize Wilcher in a manner that befits someone who gave his life in the line of duty, Clay said.

This was the second Gary police fatality in six years.

In August 2001, Gary Cpl. Louis Donald, 33, died when his squad car struck a light pole at 25th Avenue and Chase Street while pursuing a suspect. Donald had been working a traffic overtime program while taking a break from his previous role as a homicide detective.

Copyright 2007 Gary Post-Tribune

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