Kan. department loses 2 squads in chase; chief not changing pursuit policy

By Stan Finger
The Wichita Eagle, Kan. 

HARVEY COUNTY, Kan. After seeing two patrol cars wrecked during chases this week, Harvey County Sheriff A.J. Wuthnow had a question Thursday.

"Have you got a bicycle I can use?" he asked.

Wuthnow said he suspects both patrol cars are total losses, but they were damaged in the line of duty, and he does not intend to change policies governing chases.

"They both were absconders," he said of the drivers arrested in the chases. "They both had meth and/or marijuana in their vehicles. Both had been convicted prior to this on the same things."

Wuthnow was hurt in the first crash after the driver he was pursuing at speeds topping 100 mph bumped his patrol car off the road late Monday. Wuthnow's car flipped in a ditch, but he escaped with minor injuries.

"I'm sore in a couple of spots, but I'm fine," he said.

The driver, Craig Kelley, 32, was arrested in northern Sedgwick County after a chase that spanned three counties and involved officers from several law enforcement agencies.

Harvey County Undersheriff B.J. Tyner said a substantial amount of meth and marijuana was found in Kelley's vehicle after he crashed it in a ditch in the 5700 block of North Seneca.

The second crash occurred Wednesday night when a Harvey County sheriff's deputy hit some loose gravel and rolled his car near Burrton during a chase that started in Newton. He was treated and released from Newton Medical Center.

The chase went west toward Halstead and "through a few milo fields," Wuthnow said. After the deputy flipped his car, the suspects continued south into Sedgwick County.

The driver, 21-year-old Brian Green, bailed out at Maple and 279th Street West, Sedgwick County Sheriff's Lt. George Mason said. He ran, but deputies arrested his passenger, 21-year-old Shara Jones.

Sheriff's deputies searched the area through the night until they found Green asleep in a Quonset hut in the 27900 block of West 15th Street South at 8:40 a.m.

"We were the ones that woke him up," Mason said.

Wuthnow called Green's Datsun pickup "a rolling meth lab. It had meth and stuff to make more meth in it."

Harvey County's deputies will make do with other patrol cars until the damaged vehicles are repaired or replaced, Wuthnow said. It had been at least a year since a patrol car had been damaged, he said, but folks around Newton were patting him on the back Thursday.

"I've had three people catch me out here by the courthouse and say 'Don't worry about the cars,' " Wuthnow said. "Their view of this is, if we don't get" the bad guys, "what are they going to do to someone innocent?"

Copyright 2007 Wichita Eagle

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