"Any kind of vehicle used recklessly is a weapon," says Mt. Juliet's chief of police. "I don't know what was in his mind. I don't know what he was thinking, but his actions put my officers and Lebanon officers in immediate danger."
The chief was speaking of a police chase Wednesday night that spanned the cities of Mt. Juliet and Lebanon. The chase began when a 17-year-old ran away from the Tennessee Department of Children's Services in a stolen car. It ended with the runaway teen being shot several times, and two Mt. Juliet police officers injured in car accidents caused by the teen's reckless behavior.
Teen, intent on escaping DCS custody, hit two police cars and struck two pedestrian officers
Around 10 p.m. on Wednesday, police in the Providence neighborhood spotted a stolen Chevy Camaro in the parking lot of a local pool. When one officer approached the teen driver, who had recently fled from the custody of DCS, the teen was so eager to be on his way that he ran over the officer's foot.
That was just the first of the car accidents caused by the teen's reckless flight and the subsequent police chase.
After a break in the chase for public safety reasons, the Camaro was spotted on northbound Mt. Juliet Road near I-40. Mt. Juliet officers tried to stop the teen driver, but he fled, and officers pursued. By the time they were headed north on Highway 109, the fleeing driver and police had reached speeds in excess of 90 miles per hour.
The Camaro struck a Lebanon police cruiser near the intersection of Highway 109 and Lebanon Road, causing the cruiser to spin into a ditch. It does not appear the officer was injured in that car accident.
The third wreck was more serious. As the teen continued to flee police, he struck a Mt. Juliet police cruiser head-on.
At that point, it seemed the chase had come to an end, and officers from both Mt. Juliet and Lebanon approached the Camaro, guns drawn. Instead of surrendering, the teen accelerated forward, pinning one Mt. Juliet officer beneath the car and dragging him along.
Officers from both Lebanon and Mt. Juliet were forced to fire on the boy in self-defense. He was taken by LifeFlight helicopter to Vanderbilt University Medical Center in Nashville with wounds police described as non-life-threatening.
The injured officers were treated at local hospitals and released. Two Mt. Juliet officers have been placed on paid administrative leave, but officials reviewing the events believe they acted properly.
The teen is expected to be charged with reckless driving, evading police, possession of a stolen vehicle, aggravated assault and attempted second-degree murder in connection with intentionally striking the officer with the Camaro, along with causing the car accidents.
"People hurt because of one person's actions," meditated Mt. Juliet's chief, "so I'm pleased that nobody was seriously hurt in this incident."