SAN ANTONIO (KTSA News) — A San Antonio police officer was hurt following a chase involving the Bexar County Sheriff’s Office Thursday evening.
And the chase may have been captured on video by cameras for the television show COPS.
Bexar County sheriff Javier Salazar said deputies from the office’s Street Crimes Unit were patrolling an area of northeast San Antonio near the KTSA compound at around 6:30 p.m.
During that patrol, they saw a driver committing a variety of hazardous traffic violations. Salazar said the deputies tried stopping that car, but the driver chose to flee instead, driving down Austin Highway to Eisenhauer Road and then Lanark.
The sheriff said the driver rammed one of the office’s patrol vehicles during the attempted getaway. The driver ended up on the Interstate 35/410 southbound access road — going in the wrong direction — and crashed into another car, nearly head-on.
The suspect then went onto the main lanes of the interstate — also in the wrong direction — and crashed into another car. The suspect jumped out of the car while the car was moving. He suffered facial injuries. The passenger also bailed from the car, but was caught after a foot chase.
Salazar said both suspects appear to have run because they had felony warrants. The driver, a 37-year-old man, had five felony warrants on a mix of drug, gun and evasion charges. The passenger had seven felony warrants.
While the sheriff’s office was handling the crash scene, San Antonio police officers were handling traffic control. An officer was struck by a car while managing traffic on the interstate an hour after the original crash.
The officer was taken to SAMMC.
“It mangled his leg up pretty bad,” San Antonio police chief William McManus told reporters outside the military hospital.
McManus didn’t have any information about the driver who struck the officer.
The police department was not pleased with the sheriff’s office chase. So much so, department spokesman Lt. Jesse Salame emphatically encouraged reporters on the scene to ask the police chief about the difference between the police department’s pursuit policy and the sheriff’s office’s pursuit policy.
The police chief had not been to the scene before he spoke to reporters. He also stated he did not know much about the original pursuit other than it was for a traffic violation.
“Our policy prohibits pursuing for anything other than a violent crime or a crime involving a firearm,” McManus stated. “The reason we did that is to prevent people from being injured or killed or being put in danger from cars that are fleeing for a property crime — or traffic.”
The police chief did not know why the sheriff’s office was patrolling and saw an issue in an area San Antonio police frequently patrol.
When asked by KTSA News what the police chief would have done differently, McManus gave a stern response.
“Our policy would have prohibited the chase,” the chief stated. “This is the exact thing that our policy was implemented to prevent. You have to weigh risk against whether it is worth catching the offender or not. If the risk isn’t worth it, then we don’t chase. For property crime, traffic, we simply don’t chase.”
He was asked by a reporter what if the driver had gone the wrong direction on Interstate 35 like the driver in this case did. McManus said his officers would not have pursued.
The assessment by the sheriff was very different.
“The sheriff’s office pursuit policy may be different from other agencies, but our deputies are allowed to pursue in certain circumstances,” Salazar explained to reporters. “We’re looking at this to make sure that everything was complied with, policy wise, but preliminarily, I think the officers did a great job.”
In addition to all of the recording devices being used by the local law enforcement agencies, COPS had been riding along with the Street Crimes Unit and the sheriff confirmed they were on the scene for the chase.
If there is any uncertainty about whether the pursuit was merited or not, it may be up to millions of Americans nationwide to help determine that.
Salazar said the fact the suspect driver was driving dangerously on Austin Highway warranted the pursuit.
“It’s one of the criteria that we ask our officers to make sure that that’s occurring before a pursuit is initiated,” the sheriff stated. “One of the things we do not pursue for is nonhazardous traffic.”
Which was how the police chief alluded to the chase.
McManus was offered the chance with microphones and cameras in front of him to say how he really felt about the sheriff’s office’s handling of the chase.
“There is nothing that I want to tell the sheriff,” McManus said flatly when asked by KTSA News, but later stated he could have a few suggestions for the sheriff and his office.