Buchanan County to tighten up high-speed pursuit policy

Monday, July 16, 2007 | 2:00 p.m. CDT; updated 10:55 p.m. CDT, Monday, July 21, 2008

ST. JOSEPH — The Buchanan County Sheriff’s Department will review its high-speed pursuit guidelines after a deputy died chasing a motorcycle at high speeds.

Deputy Charlie Cook, 28, died from injuries he suffered when his vehicle crashed while pursuing an erratically driven motorcycle shortly before 3 a.m. on June 23.

An accident reconstruction report concluded that Cook’s vehicle was traveling at more than 90 mph when he swerved around two vehicles before slamming into a traffic control box.

Buchanan County Sheriff Mike Strong said Cook shouldn’t have been chasing a motorcycle at speeds close to 100 mph, under the circumstances.

“We’re going to tighten up our pursuit policy, no doubt about that,” Strong said. “We always want to ensure the safety of our citizens.”

Strong has already told his deputies of immediate changes to high-speed pursuit protocol, including never engaging in a pursuit when a civilian is riding along.

Civilian ride-alongs will now be restricted to essential personnel, such as chaplains and those participating in the citizens’ law enforcement academy.

Cook’s brother-in-law, Aaron Smullin, 18, was riding along on the night of the fatal crash. Smullin was treated and released for his injuries.

In April, a Sheriff’s Department pursuit on U.S. 59 ended when the man the deputies were chasing, Anthony McCullough, 30, wrecked his car at speeds topping 75 mph. McCullough, who allegedly was trying to hit oncoming cars, died from his injuries.

Strong said that chase was proper because not trying to stop the driver could have led to someone else’s injury or death.

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