An Augusta police officer is “lucky to be alive” after crashing while pursuing a stolen car during heavy rain west of Augusta early Wednesday, authorities said.
Officer Quinten Shoopman spotted a Nissan that had been reported stolen from Miami, Okla., at an Augusta convenience store shortly after 4 a.m., said Tyler Brewer, Augusta’s director of public safety. He called for backup and then the suspect, Jeremy Hutchens, got out of the stolen car.
Shoopman and Hutchens talked for a bit, then Hutchens broke off the conversation, jumped in the Nissan and raced away, Brewer said. The officer providing backup immediately began pursuing the Nissan west on U.S. 54, with Shoopman following about 100 yards behind.
Speeds during the chase exceeded 100 miles an hour, Brewer said. It was raining heavily at the time and the Nissan spun out as Hutchens turned onto Santa Fe Lake Road.
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The second officer looked over his shoulder and saw Shoopman’s car sideways in the ditch, where it clipped one power pole and then slammed into a second pole on the driver’s side.
Hutchens climbed out of the wrecked Nissan and ran off, Brewer said, but the officer decided to check on Shoopman instead.
“He did the right thing,” Brewer said of the officer.
Shoopman suffered a head injury and numerous bruises. Brewer said the crash could easily have killed him.
“He’s got a pretty good cut to the back of his head and he’s really sore,” Brewer said of Shoopman, who is 22 and has been on the force for less than a year after graduating from the law enforcement academy.
He’s being held for observation in the intensive care unit at Via Christi Hospital on St. Francis, but Brewer said a series of tests indicate Shoopman should fully recover.
His patrol car hydroplaned in the heavy rain, but Brewer said he had no complaints about how the incident was handled.
“He was doing what he’s paid to do,” Brewer said of Shoopman. “This is what happens sometimes.”
A resident called 911 at about 8:30 a.m. to report seeing a man in a row of trees near a church and train trestle not far from U.S. 54 and Santa Fe Lake Road, Brewer said. Authorities knew Hutchens had an extensive criminal history in the area and that his ex-girlfriend lived in a trailer near there.
With help from the Butler County Sheriff’s Office and the Wichita Police Department’s air unit, authorities canvassed the surrounding area. Twice they checked the ex-girlfriend’s trailer but saw no evidence that he had been there.
The third time they went to the trailer, they determined he was inside.
“We ended up forcing our way in,” Brewer said.
Hutchens was arrested. His ex-girlfriend wasn’t home.