4-car police pileup in Everett under investigation

  • Wed Feb 3rd, 2010 10:36pm
  • News

By Scott North and Jackson Holtz, Herald Writers

EVERETT — Two investigations already are under way after a car chase by Snohomish County sheriff’s deputies early Wednesday ended with police cars caroming off each other in downtown Everett and injuries for four officers.

There were two crashes in the span of seconds, involving four police cars. The suspect, an ex-con wanted on warrants for escape and driving a stolen car, also crashed nearby.

The worst damage was caused when a sheriff’s deputy, rushing southbound on Broadway, slammed into two patrol cars that had been parked in the roadway to form an improvised barricade, just north of the intersection with Hewitt Avenue.

One of the patrol cars that was hit was from the sheriff’s office; the other belonged to an Everett police officer.

The Everett officer, 28, had climbed out of his car and was starting to run after a suspected car thief, who had just crashed in front of Comcast Arena.

The Everett officer received two broken wrists and a broken knee when he was hit by another patrol car sent spinning by the impact from the arriving deputy’s vehicle, Everett police Sgt. Robert Goetz said.

Both deputies received minor injuries. So did another Everett officer, who also was rushing to the scene. He ran his patrol car off the road to avoid becoming entangled in the accident unfolding before him, Goetz said.

All told, four damaged police cars wound up blocking traffic along Broadway, starting at 2:40 a.m. and lasting well into the morning commute.

Doctors planned to keep the injured Everett officer hospitalized Wednesday night for observation. He has nearly three years of police experience.

The deputy believed to have caused the crash, 26, was not directly involved in the car chase, but was rushing to the scene to help catch the suspect as he tried to run away, Snohomish County sheriff’s spokeswoman Rebecca Hover said.

The sheriff’s office on Wednesday said two administrative investigations already have been launched into the incident.

One review will examine whether the car chase followed sheriff’s office pursuit policy. Another will focus on adherence to procedures regarding the use of emergency vehicles, Hover said.

“We’re very grateful that no one was critically injured — officers and citizens,” Hover said. “We’re all wishing the Everett officers a speedy recovery.”

It all began about 2:20 a.m. when a sheriff’s sergeant tried to pull over a man who was at the wheel of a recklessly driven car south of Everett in the 3500 block of 132nd Street SE. At that time, the deputy didn’t know the car had been stolen, or who was at the wheel.

The chase was on, and it headed north into Everett, winding through parts of the city, Goetz said.

Everett officers were not involved in the chase, but had converged on the downtown area to help keep the suspect from fleeing from the deputies, Goetz said.

Everett police policy prohibits officers from car chases except in extreme circumstances. The sheriff’s office has a different policy that allows deputies to pursue fleeing vehicles, but only when a sheriff’s supervisor determines that the risks posed are acceptable.

The suspect crashed along Broadway after the vehicle ran over spike strips put on the road to stop him. It worked. A tire deflated, causing the driver to lose control. When the car stopped, the suspect climbed out and tried to run away.

A few feet away, an Everett officer and a sheriff’s deputy had parked their patrol cars to form a blockade. The vehicles were just below the crest of the hill where Broadway crosses the railroad tracks, north of the intersection with Hewitt Avenue.

Those vehicles were hit by the deputy rushing south on Broadway. The collision had enough force to knock the parked patrol cars around in the street, Goetz said.

“The sheriff’s office vehicle that was stopped in the roadway appears to have been spinning around and ended up striking our officer, who was out of his vehicle,” Goetz said.

Meanwhile, another Everett officer, heading north on Broadway, turned hard to his right to avoid the crash in front of him. He struck a concrete planter box in a small park at the northeast corner of the intersection.

Everett police crash investigators and detectives from the sheriff’s office planned to use sophisticated computer software to reconstruct the accident, Goetz said. That could take several weeks.

The Everett officer who hit the concrete planter, 23, has been in law enforcement roughly a year. He broke two fingers in the crash, Goetz said. The officer was treated and released Wednesday.

The deputies who were hurt had bumps and bruises and also were treated and released, Hover said. The 26-year-old deputy has been with the department for more than three years. The other deputy involved, 47, has more than a decade of experience.

The suspect was arrested after a brief foot chase.

Goetz identified the man as Andrew Wayne Holden, 32, of Snohomish. Lynnwood police last week issued an alert on the convicted felon, who was wanted on a Department of Corrections escape warrant.

It was after the crash that investigators learned that the red, 1992 Honda Accord sedan that deputies were chasing had been reported stolen in Seattle, Goetz said.

Holden already was the focus of three probable-cause arrest warrants for auto theft. The man is known as a prolific car thief, and has been the focus on an ongoing investigation by the Snohomish County Auto Theft Task Force, Goetz said.

Holden was booked into the Snohomish County Jail on the warrant and for investigation of possession of a stolen vehicle, eluding police and resisting arrest. He’s scheduled to go before a judge today.

Holden’s extensive criminal history includes prior conviction for possession of stolen vehicles and other stolen property, said Chad Lewis, a spokesman for the state Department of Corrections. Holden has spent time in prison. A warrant was issued in early January after he failed to check in with his parole officer and his drug treatment counselor.

Reporter Jackson Holtz: 425-339-3437, jholtz@heraldnet.com.