70-mile high-speed chase ends just in time
Traffic stop sparks crazy escape that ends in Butler County
An alleged truck thief led officers on a dusty, dangerous 70-mile, hour-long chase down county roads Tuesday through Peabody and Burns, but ran out of road in Butler County just before a pursuing officer ran out of gas.
A call apparently made to dispatchers by a disgruntled driver reported that an EMB Construction truck was driving fast and erratically on US-50 east of Walton. The driver used a phone number on the side of the truck to call the owner, who said the truck had been stolen.
Peabody Police Chief Bruce Burke was waiting on the highway for the speeding white GMC pickup as sergeant Michael Ottensmeier was on the way from Sunflower Rd. and US-50.
“I’ve got the vehicle spotted,” Burke radioed at 6:25 a.m. “I’m just sitting here getting ready to light it up.”
Burke pulled the truck over at 9th and Maple Sts. and was transmitting license plate information when the truck took off.
Driving at speeds reportedly up to 50 mph, the truck raced down Walnut St., turned left on 2nd St., then bolted north on Sycamore St., turning east on 5th St.
The trail momentarily turned cold, then Burke spotted the truck driving down an alley between Maple and Elm Sts.
Ottensmeier took the lead in the chase as the truck headed south on Maple St. It crossed railroad tracks, then veered off onto Needle, 59th, and Newell Rds., doing 50 mph.
The truck turned left onto 50th Rd., drove five miles to Timber Rd. and turned left. Ottensmeier called for another officer to go to Turkey Creek Rd. and US-50 to block that route.
Instead, the truck turned west onto minimally maintained 80th Rd., with Ottensmeier and Burke close behind. When the truck reached US-50, it crossed the highway at the former Wildcat Creek Ranch.
The chase wound its way to Pawnee Rd. and headed south, toward sergeant Larry Starkey.
“Make a note he did swerve at me,” Starkey radioed to dispatchers. “If I hadn’t got out of the way he’d have run into me. He was on the wrong side of the road.”
At the south county line, the truck turned east on 20th Rd.
About 10 miles later, as the vehicles neared US-77 the truck turned south on Zebu Rd., taking the chase through the heart of Burns and into Butler County.
Burke fell back, but Sheriff Robert Craft gave Ottensmeier permission via radio to keep going.
“He has a flat tire on the left front and he’s driving left of center,” Ottensmeier reported as the truck ran a stop sign at Boyer and NW 150th Rds.
When they reached the end of Boyer Rd. at NW 110th, the truck turned east toward US-77. Ottensmeier reported that the truck’s left rear tire also had gone flat.
However, Ottensmeier had a problem of his own: his car was almost out of gas.
“I’ve got 13 miles left, so if I don’t get him by 77 I’m going to terminate,” he said.
However, when the truck crossed the highway, so did Ottensmeier.
“I’m going to stay with him until we get another unit,” he said.
About two minutes later, the chase was over. NW 110th Rd. was closed at Cole Creek for a failed bridge.
The driver, 18-year-old Zachary Nichols of Wichita, was arrested on suspicion of possession of stolen property, aggravated assault on a police officer, evading arrest, and driving with a suspended license. A Hillsboro officer, a third deputy, and a highway patrolman assisted in the chase.
Ottensmeier took Nichols to Marion County jail, after stopping in Burns to get gas.