Retail fraud in Utica turns into police chase with damage to police vehicle

By: Kara Szymanski | Shelby-Utica News | Published October 4, 2022


UTICA — Utica police said that an attempted retail fraud Sept. 12 turned into a chase after the suspects hit a police vehicle while trying to get away.

The two suspects reportedly were apprehended by Michigan State Police and a Macomb County Sheriff’s Office deputy after the suspect vehicle crashed. The crash happened after police had ended the pursuit.

At approximately 12:26 p.m., officers were dispatched to Sam’s Club, 45600 Utica Park Blvd., for a retail fraud in progress. A dispatcher was on the phone with a loss prevention associate who reportedly was watching two subjects in the store.

Utica Police Sgt. Vince Ranelli said officers who were in the building saw one of the customers take a bottle of liquor and hide it.

According to police, dispatch stated that one of the subjects was exiting the through the vestibule, where officers were waiting. Police observed a man in the vestibule walking toward the parking lot. The subject avoided eye contact with officers and immediately began using his cellphone as he walked out of the store and into the parking lot.

“Dispatch stated that the other subject in the store was now in line at the checkout and using his phone. An officer went out into the parking lot and watched the first subject walk south through the parking toward the Sam’s Club Fuel Station area. Other officers entered a patrol vehicle and proceeded to the back of the parking lot in an attempt to locate him,” Ranelli said via email.

According to police, one officer remained by the vestibule for the other suspect. Officers located the first suspect walking back toward Sam’s Club through cars that were parked in the aisles and had now reentered Sam’s Club at the checkout. Police, meanwhile, did a check on a gold and brown Jeep Liberty that was parked in the back of the lot that he had walked toward. The plate returned showing no title information, police said.

Dispatch then stated that the suspects had abandoned the cart with the merchandise inside and exited the store. They were then observed entering the Jeep. The vehicle quickly pulled out onto southbound Utica Park Boulevard, then onto westbound Hall Road, and officers followed to stop the vehicle since it had no title information. Police said they activated emergency lights to effect a traffic stop on the vehicle, but the vehicle continued westbound on Hall Road and merged into the turn lane for northbound M-53.

Ranelli said that the light for westbound Hall Road was red and the vehicle was stuck behind traffic waiting to make the turn onto the northbound M-53 ramp. One patrol vehicle was positioned behind the suspect vehicle, and a civilian vehicle was stopped in front of the suspect vehicle.

“Another patrol vehicle was positioned to the left of the suspect vehicle in an attempt to have it pull onto the right shoulder of the M-53 ramp and to stop any other traffic that was going to be entering the ramp,” Ranelli said. “The suspect vehicle was not pulling off onto the shoulder of the M-53 ramp, and instead, it accelerated toward the passenger front side of one of the patrol vehicles in an attempt to get around the civilian vehicle that was stopped in front of it. The officer attempted to move the patrol vehicle to the left and out of the path of the suspect vehicle but could not do so fast enough.”

The crash resulted in damage to both vehicles’ front quarter panels. The Jeep then accelerated down the ramp onto northbound M-53, he said.

Officers began a pursuit, and the suspect vehicle continued on northbound M-53 at speeds varying from 70 mph to 100 mph, according to police. The suspect vehicle reportedly passed civilian vehicles on the shoulder numerous times in an attempt to evade police. The suspect continued fleeing from officers for approximately 3 miles and then exited at 23 Mile Road, police said. The suspect vehicle then drove through the 23 Mile Road and M-53 ramp intersection, dodging civilian vehicles on the roadway and reentered northbound M-53 using the ramp from 23 Mile, according to police.

The suspect vehicle reportedly continued fleeing for another 3 miles with speeds varying from 90 mph to 100 mph; it then exited northbound M-53 onto the 26 Mile Road exit ramp. While on the ramp, the suspect vehicle locked up its brakes and began to lose control, police said.

It went off the roadway to the right side, struck the curb, bounced back onto the roadway, and then continued through the roundabout at 26 Mile Road. The suspect vehicle then reentered northbound M-53 via the 26 Mile Road entrance ramp. Once back on northbound M-53, officers pursued it for 2 miles before terminating the pursuit, Ranelli said.

The pursuit was terminated south of 28 Mile Road on northbound M-53.

According to police, the patrol vehicle with a damaged quarter panel and headlight was to be taken to a dealership for a complete checkup to ensure there is no underlying damage and to obtain a quote for repair.

After the pursuit was over, Michigan State Police located the Jeep on 32 Mile Road. The vehicle reportedly had wrecked in the area of 32 Mile and Lowe Plank Road, and Michigan State Police had apprehended the passenger. According to police, the driver had fled on foot, and a K-9 track and foot pursuit was completed with the driver’s apprehension.

According to Utica police, a Roseville Police Department report listed the same vehicle and license plate as having been used during a retail fraud in Roseville.

One of the suspects was currently out on parole and had cut an electronic tether that day, police said.