Thursday, June 21, 2007

Shootings and Hostages in Arcola - Updated

The News-Gazette has the full story so far here (photo is theirs).

Here's the summary:

9:45am - Apparently a couple guys out of Chicago got pulled over for tinted windows on their silver Infinity by a trooper who soon also suspected drugs, for reasons yet unclear. Upon calling for a canine unit the suspects drove off. According to the CNN article on the story it is against Illinois State Police policy to give chase unless a violent crime is suspected.

10:38am - A report is called in about two guys who robbed some people of their van at gunpoint near Camargo. And soon after spotting and pulling the van over a Sheriff's deputy was shot twice (now in critical and stable condition with bullet wounds in the face and torso).

Then after the suspects sped down the country roads and interstate reportedly going over 100 miles an hour at times. Crashed the van pulling into the small town of Arcola, the driver gets busted but the passenger runs into a bank and takes people inside hostage.

6:35 pm - The hostage situation ended after roughly 7 hours with none of the hostages harmed and the other suspect in custody, apparently without any further shots fired.

There's a press conference on the issue (available here at WCIA). It's mostly the same information from one of the troopers but with a bit more detail on the pursuit and less witness comments.

Apparently an Illinois State Police hostage negotiator was involved in talking the subject into releasing the hostages and may be mostly responsible for the standoff ending peacefully.

Small Towns Meet Big City Violence:

Just an amazing and shocking story to come out of Arcola (map), a small rural town with fewer than 3000 residents, whose big claim to fame is being the hometown of Johnny Gruelle who created Raggedy Ann and Andy. But probably not entirely strange considering that this part of I-57 is probably a fairly big black market route from Chicago to the South, Memphis, Nashville, and beyond. It was unclear if both men were from Chicago as only one suspect was identified as of yet. From the description of their path it appears that they were stopped heading south on I-57 before driving off and taking the next available exit towards the rural roads around Camargo.

While it seems apparent that these guys were up to no good, the drug suspicions have yet to be confirmed in the news. The car was left at the scene of the van robbery so I'm sure that information will be available soon. It also appeared unclear whether it was the passenger or the driver who shot the deputy during the pursuit.

State High Speed Pursuit Policy:

ISP policy is not to give chase unless there was a violent crime. In this case I'm not sure whether that policy helped or hurt the situation. That rule clearly went out the window after the deputy had been shot and according to reports the chase did result in the driver losing control of the vehicle, possibly putting other innocent lives at risk.

I don't believe that officers should be running off on high speed chases with everybody who flees like that, especially if they already have their information and the only crime suspected is tinted windows and possibly drugs (which a canine unit hadn't confirmed yet). But when situations like this get violent and it turns into a high speed chase anyways... it gives someone pause on whether or not the policy is correct.

Although this is an older article from the Washington Monthly in 1991 (which may be more useful since many police agencies have adapted their policies on high speed chases since) and with an obvious bias the figures it cites appear to be genuine:

According to a study by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA), two of every five high-speed police chases in the U.S. end in property damage. One in four ends in injury. And far, far too many end in death: An average of 287 people died as a result of police pursuit every year during the eighties.

The same article also points out some incidents where the guy who was let go but later caught turned out to be suspected killer. So obviously when they let the guy run off for a non-violent infraction hoping to catch them later it isn't always so cut and dry, just as this central Illinois incident proves.

Is there a better way to handle these situations? Perhaps better coordination between State and local authorities in order to avoid high speed chases for non-violent infractions but trap them to prevent them from wreaking havoc on the area later if they turn out to be more dangerous than originally assumed.

Or is it worth going back to the old days of the potential havoc of high speed chases for minor infractions all over again? Some might argue it is to prevent people from thinking they can drive off from a traffic stop without repercussions, if they can just get away. Not sure how often that occurs in reality, but crooks aren't always the brightest of the bunch, so statistics they're unaware of probably won't matter to them in the heat of the moment. There's a good chance they expect a chase, if not right then, later on, as the authorities put the word out over the radio. I'm not sure if there is much difference in the deterrent effect. People who know they'll get caught now or later probably won't run. People who are ignorant will probably still run.

Now perhaps there is a good answer for this, and I'm just ignorant myself but...

Why oh why can't cops demand your car keys during a traffic stop? Wouldn't that resolve quite a few of these situations? Or would that make it worse somehow?

Inquiring minds want to know.

UPDATES and CORRECTIONS -- June 23, 2007 1:15PM

Latest News-Gazette story on the incident with some corrections on the initial information here.

Apparently the suspects, both identified now, are suspected in an earlier murder in Chicago.

Also it appears that the canine unit arrived and indicated drugs before the men drove off on the trooper. Not that they drove off before it arrived as earlier reported.

Additionally "Douglas County Chief Deputy Tommy Martin was shot in the face and torso while driving his squad car past another vehicle driven by one of the men and wasn't out of his car as first reported." Though which suspect was involved is still undetermined.

It also appears that the men stole a pickup truck as well as a fan and briefly separated while fleeing before they met up again and abandoned the pickup truck.

Though an ISP negotiator was originally involved in the hostage situation it was a FBI negotiator who was later brought in and who negotiated the end of the standoff.


Mike said...

Why oh why can't cops demand your car keys during a traffic stop? Wouldn't that resolve quite a few of these situations? Or would that make it worse somehow?

Yes, that would make it worse. It would make those with guns more likely to pull them, and wouldn't sit well with most people. It's inherently hostile.

Coyote said...

what are you talking about mike? A police officer has the right to approach a pulled over vehicle with a weapon drawn. drawing a weapon is considerably more hostile than simply asking for keys to ensure you don't drive away. I am liberal & believe very highly in civil rights. And, as many of my friends & family will tell you, am far far far from being an advocate for police rights, however Glock21's idea of temporarily confiscating automobile keys during a traffic stop seems to make sense & sits well with me.

Coyote said...

on a related note, here is an interesting police officer's forum regarding this issue.

Mike said...

Coyote, an officer who approached every vehicle with a drawn weapon would find himself without a job very quickly; a police office does not have the right to draw his weapon without reasonable cause. Confiscating car keys is technically a seizure, is inherently hostile, and is illegal without reasonable cause. The department that instituted such a policy would be bankrupted by lawsuits.

Glock21 said...

Temporarily holding on to the keys is inherently hostile?


What is temporarily making them stop their car? An act of war?


Granted there may be some legal issues surrounding whether or not they may be able to retain the keys during the stop, but I'd rather hear what they are than this emotive absurdity.

They can have my keys when they take them from my cold dead hands! Yargh! They are temporarily stopping you either way, taking the keys just helps ensure you stay stopped while you're already legally obligated to.

It's no more "hostile" than making them shut their car off in the first place.

Mike said...

They are temporarily stopping you either way, taking the keys just helps ensure you stay stopped while you're already legally obligated to.

It's no more "hostile" than making them shut their car off in the first place.

One is a stop; the other is a seizure. The first is reasonable; the second is not.

Glock21 said...

I could see it as a seizure if the cops kept it for longer than the duration of the stop. If they make you get out of your car to talk to you is that seizing their whole car because you're temporarily separated from it?

Are the keys more of seizure than their insurance paperwork? Registration paperwork? License?

Granted the license/registration could be part of some gray area of private/public papers or effects, but the insurance paperwork does not. If the State can allow police to temporarily hold on to these things during a stop, why not the keys too?

There seems to be a compelling state interest to do so. But perhaps you know of some law or court ruling that equates this with impounding their car.