Monday, July 7, 2014

UPDATED with OHP and fresh ODNR material Three Ohio wildlife officers involved in fatal high-speed chase

A fatal automobile accident in Clermont County July 6 came following a high-speed chase involving three officers with the Ohio Department of Natural Resources’ Division of Wildlife.

Among the three officers involved was Jason Keller, who once served as the state wildlife officer assigned to Lake County but now holds the same position in Warren County.

The other two officers were Eric Lamb, state wildlife officer assigned to Brown County; and Brian Glodick, a Wildlife Division supervisor.

All three men are now on paid administrative leave, pending the outcome of the accident’s investigation by the Ohio State Highway Patrol.

Though the matter remains under investigation, what is known is that officers gave chase around 7 p.m., Sunday, pursuing a Saturn L300 sedan near 1,058-acre Stonelick State Park, near Cincinnati.

Officially the Natural Resources Department responded today (July 8) with this short comment sent via e-mail:

"While working at Stonelick State Park on Sunday July 6, 2014, ODNR Wildlife Officer Jason Keller observed a group of individuals consuming what appeared to be alcoholic beverages and acting disorderly.

"After calling for assistance, he also observed them littering and entering a vehicle with what appeared to be open containers of alcohol.

"Uniformed officers attempted to stop the vehicle, but the vehicle accelerated away at a high rate of speed.

"Following the vehicle, the officers crested a hill to find the vehicle had crashed. They administered first aid until EMS arrived on scene."   

 Local news reports say the Saturn was traveling southbound on State Route 727 when the driver lost control of the vehicle. The vehicle then veered off the left side of the highway, struck an embankment and trees, and continued across the right side of the roadway.

 In the vehicle were four occupants, including the driver, 36-year-old Paul Chisenhall of Goshen.

The other occupants were Christina Singleton, 31, of Newport; Jason Wright, 31, of Martinsville; and 32-year-old Charles McMullen of Willimsburg.

In the course of the subsequent crash, Wright was ejected from the back seat of the vehicle and pronounced dead at the scene. He was not wearing a seat belt, local news accounts also report.
McMullen also was pronounced dead at the scene. He too was ejected from the Saturn’s rear seat though he was wearing a seat belt.

Both Singleton and Chisenhall were seriously injured and subsequently life-flighted to University Hospital Medical Center in Cincinnati.

Local news accounts report that police say both alcohol and excessive speed played a role in the accident.

One news account adds that Chisehall has previously been convicted of operating a motor vehicle “while under the influence of alcohol/drugs in the past.”

“(Chisenhall) was found guilty of driving under the influence in 2002 and 2005. He was also charged with driving under OVI suspension in 2012 but was convicted of a lesser offense,” said a report from the local Fox 19 television station.

Natural Resources Department spokesman Matt Eiselstein said that the incident remains under investigation by the Ohio State Highway Patrol.

“The ODNR/Division of Wildlife officers will be assisting patrol investigators with this case,” Eiselstein said. “Additional details will be released with the completion of the initial incident report.”

That investigation could take some time, too.

Ohio State Highway Patrol Lt. Wayne Price said today (Tuesday, July 8) that the toxicology test report could take up to eight weeks.

Ditto with reconstruction aspect of the investigation, says Price who is the commander of the Patrol's district Post that includes the accident scene.

Thus the Patrol doesn't want to "beat us up on" completing this investigation, said Price.

"We want to do a good, thorough job, and why we didn't put a time-line on it," Price said.

Currently the Patrol has between four and six of its officers working on the investigation. Among the duties performed thus far by Patrol investigators was interviewing both of the accident survivors; Chisehall and Singleton, Price said.

Price said as well that while Ohio State Highway Patrol officers have yet to interview either Keller, Lamb or Glodnick, that process will come about at some point during the investigation.

The Natural Resources Department has an extensive policy and written guidelines for all of  its officers engaged in high-speed pursuits.

Among the exhaustive guideline’s criteria found immediately under the department’s “Primary Considerations” is this notion, all in capital- and bold-type letters: “1. A PURSUIT IS ONLY JUSTIFIED WHEN THE NECESSITY OF THE APPREHENSION OUTWEIGHS THE LEVEL OF DANGER CREATED BY THE PURSUIT.”

The guideline’s second point says also: “An officer shall exercise due regard for the safety of all persons when conducting a vehicle pursuit.”

Further instructions include that training is required in order to engage in high-speed pursuits, that no more than two Natural Resources vehicles do the pursuing, and that “No Officer will engage in a high-speed vehicle pursuit while driving a four-wheel drive vehicle.”

Procedures likewise spell out what are the documenting requirements and post-review details, each of which provide step-by-step protocols.

Among them is the conducting of an internal review of any incident’s details and subsequent officer response as well as adherence to departmental policy and any applicable Ohio law.

Lastly, under the guidelines’ final “Appendix A” is the policy’s position that officers do have the right to engage in a pursuit so not to allow an alleged violator to escape.

“The termination of a pursuit does not prohibit the following of a vehicle at a safe speed, or remaining in an area to re-initiate pursuit if the opportunity and conditions permit.”

This blog may be updated as further information becomes available.

- Jeffrey L. Frischkorn

Jeff is the retired News-Herald reporter who  covered the earth sciences, the area's three county park systems and the outdoors for the newspaper. During his 30 years with The News-Herald Jeff was the recipient of more than 100 state, regional and national journalism awards. He also is a columnist and features writer for the Ohio Outdoor News, which is published every other week and details the outdoors happenings in the state.

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