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Chase at SMC leads to crash

Justin Tardiff | Monday, November 14, 2005

A police pursuit that began as a routine traffic stop in Mishawaka concluded with the alleged suspects driving straight through Saint Mary’s campus and crashing into a tree behind Loretto Convent Sunday afternoon, authorities said.

After entering campus at the Saint Mary’s Inn entrance, the alleged suspects weaved through some trees and passed directly between the library and Havican Hall, police said. They then proceeded across the library green and into the parking lot between the Student Center and McCandless Hall before driving to the far southwest corner of campus, where they crashed in a dirt lot behind the Loretto Convent – then took off into the woods, police said.

“The two occupants left the vehicle and went down the embankment,” St. Joseph County Police Cpl. Corey Brothers said early Sunday evening. “There are still a couple of officers milling around to see if they got out of the woods.”

No one was injured in the incident.

Described as two black men in their twenties, the alleged suspects are believed to have fled south down along the St. Joseph River, Brothers said. As of Sunday night neither had been apprehended, he said.

The alleged suspects, who were driving a white compact car, were pulled over by a Mishawaka police officer near the intersection of Grape Road and Douglas Road after he found their license plates did not match the vehicle, Brothers said. When the officer approached the vehicle, the alleged suspects drove off, he said.

The Mishawaka officer and a St. Joseph County Sheriff unit pursued the car onto the College’s campus. Brothers estimated the speed of the pursuit to be between 60 and 70 miles per hour.

“[It was] a decent speed, because they got where they were going quickly,” Brothers said.

The chase caused landscaping damage and damage to the vehicle the alleged suspects were driving, he said.

Brothers said he did not know whether the alleged suspects were armed.

Police and Saint Mary’s security units patrolled the western border of campus, which abuts the St. Joseph River, much of the afternoon looking for the alleged suspects. The car was impounded, Brothers said.

Saint Mary’s security officer Joyce Vrasis would not comment on whether College security officers had searched for the alleged suspects in any buildings on campus. She did confirm that there was no significant physical damage to the campus.

Identification for one of the men was found under a seat in the car, Brothers said.

There had been no cars reported stolen as of Sunday, Brothers said, and the alleged suspects probably removed the license plates from another vehicle and placed them on the one they were driving.

Despite the pursuit, the campus remained quiet and most students said they did not see or hear the incident.

Junior Erin Nolan, who was studying in front of a large window in the Cyber Café that faces the path the chase took across campus, said she saw a few police cars but little else.

“We saw the flashing light but there were no sirens,” Nolan said. “What caught my eye was the flashing lights.”

College spokeswoman Melanie McDonald was unavailable for comment Sunday night.