Investigation continues in theft of Sterling police vehicle, high-speed chase

By: Eric Czarnik | Sterling Heights Sentry | Published April 4, 2019

The Sterling Heights Police Department became a target of theft April 2 when a person of interest in a dangerous high-speed car chase allegedly stole a police vehicle.

Sterling Heights Police Lt. Mario Bastianelli said at an April 2 press conference that police learned at around 7:15 a.m. of “possible shots fired” in an incident involving two vehicles.

Bastianelli said the tip involved a Dodge Durango and a Ford Fusion, and police found the Durango headed south at 18 Mile Road and Van Dyke Avenue.

“We then come to find out that the Dodge Durango was actually pursuing the Ford Fusion,” Bastianelli said.

Bastianelli said the conflict between the two vehicles apparently was related to “something that happened in Utica, and these parties obviously knew each other.”

Police said the Durango pursuit led them to a neighborhood near Metropolitan Parkway and Schoenherr Road, and the Durango stopped. Bastianelli said police are interviewing the driver.

The pursuit of the Ford Fusion was more complicated. Bastianelli said a passenger exited the Fusion, and police reportedly searched around a house to find him. When police moved to investigate and track the passenger, the suspect managed to hop inside a Sterling Heights patrol vehicle that had been left running.

Police — including the Macomb County Sheriff’s deputies — went after the stolen vehicle in a chase that ended up on westbound Interstate 94. The chase ended in a collision at I-94 and 12 Mile Road, and Bastianelli said the suspect who took the police vehicle was caught.

Although the Sterling Heights police had lost track of the Fusion, Warren police reportedly spotted it on southbound Van Dyke Avenue and tracked it into Detroit, Bastianelli said. When two people inside the Fusion eventually tried to escape, police reportedly caught the Fusion’s driver thanks to a collective law enforcement effort, Bastianelli said. At the time of the conference, he said police were still looking for one of the Fusion’s passengers.

“Speeds were extreme. They got up to 100 mph and put everybody at danger: the public, law enforcement and themselves,” Bastianelli said. “So thank God that through the entire event, everybody was safe.”

In total, the search and investigation spanned two counties and multiple jurisdictions, and police are still conducting interviews and piecing information together to figure out why the initial vehicle chase took place, police said. Bastianelli added that police are still investigating whether anyone fired shots, though he declined to reveal what sort of evidence, such as weapons, police may have found.

Although Bastianelli said police ultimately ended up safe, he called the situation “extremely dangerous” for the officers. He talked about the police perspective when it comes to the judgment over whether to turn off a police car’s ignition.

“Sometimes details of turning the ignition off and locking the door — you’re talking about something that, this is evolving in seconds. So the main thing for the officer is to try to get that bad guy in custody, and sometimes incidents like this happen.”

Sterling Heights Police Chief Dale Dwojakowski said April 4 that police are still looking for the remaining Fusion passenger.

Anyone who has more information about this incident is encouraged to contact the Sterling Heights Police Department by calling (586) 446-2800.