PURSUIT: Crash at the 4-Way Injures Woman, Children
UPDATED at 12:17 with information regarding the driver's route prior to the crash and expected charges from HCSO.
A high speed pursuit that began in Howell County bled into Willow Springs Sunday night as Sheriff’s deputies chased Luke T. Riley into town. Riley, 33, of Willow Springs, had multiple active warrants for his arrest in three counties.
A press release from the Howell County Sheriff's Office says Deputy Logan Wake initiated a traffic stop when he encountered Riley on US Highway 63 because the truck matched the description of a vehicle that fled from Willow Springs Police on July 7. Riley turned west onto State Route DD, and the deputy followed as the suspect wound north on Walnut St. and then south on Highway 137 (Harris St.).
According to the Missouri State Highway Patrol’s Troop G, Riley sped through the stop sign at the intersection of Main and Harris Sts. and struck a Toyota Highlander driven by Tracy Trude, 48, of Willow Springs. City Administrator Beverly Hicks said the impact was to the driver’s side door of the vehicle. Trude was traveling with her two daughters, ages 9 and 5, at the time of the crash.
Trude’s injuries were serious, and she was taken from the scene in an ambulance. The children sustained minor injuries and also went to the hospital.
After the impact, Riley crashed into a stop sign, into a parked van, and then into the historic brick building at the southeast corner of the intersection. Owned by Blake Browne, the building was originally the Star Opera House. It is currently undergoing renovations and was empty at the time of the crash. However, the building sustained significant damage. Browne told Howell County News he expects the damage to cost upwards of $20,000 to repair.
The van is owned by the proprietor of Dew Family Originals, who was home in the apartment above at the time of the crash.
“We heard the screeching and when I looked out the truck hit the mailbox,” said Skooby Dew, “I ran out just as the guy jumped out of the destroyed truck. [The] cops were on him, so I ran to the SUV to try to help.”
Dew said he helped release the screaming children from the vehicle while other deputies applied a Tazer and handcuffed Riley. Deputies Deven Mendenhall, Nick Bruno, and Matt Foster had also responded and were present for the arrest.
“The guy, [Riley], just kept asking over and over if everyone was ok. He was pretty messed up too,” Dew said, “I'm not sure who he was but the officers all knew him.”
MSHP’s crash report indicates Riley sustained serious injuries and was released from the scene for medical treatment after Troopers arrested him for driving under the influence and three counts of second-degree assault.
In a phone interview Monday morning, Howell County Sheriff told this reporter that his deputies continued the pursuit of their suspect into the city limits of Willow Springs because Riley committed a violent felony as he resisted arrest and fled from law enforcement. After the traffic stop was initiated by Deputy Logan Wake, Riley began to flee. In the course of the pursuit on State Route DD, the accused intentionally ran Deputy Travis Weaver off the road and into a ditch, Sheriff Campbell said.
“Once he ran the deputy off the road intentionally, he was committing a violent felony,” he said. Sheriff Campbell cited a Missouri statute, 575.150, which empowers law enforcement officers to chase fleeing subjects.
“It is no defense to a prosecution ...that the law enforcement officer was acting unlawfully in making the arrest. However, nothing in this section shall be construed to bar civil suits for unlawful arrest,” reads the statute.
After the crash, Riley exited the vehicle and attempted to flee on foot. He was quickly subdued by the officers.
“Hindsight is 20/20,” Sheriff Campbell, “I can’t second guess my deputies or staff...I think there was no stopping that accident. A longer response time, and we would have never known what happened at the scene of the wreck.”
Riley is facing numerous additional charges including; operating a motor vehicle in a careless and imprudent manner, assault on law enforcement , resisting arrest, DWI, and multiple traffic offenses.