Mar. 31—Troy police chased a fleeing driver about 11 miles Tuesday morning before the 19-year-old man reportedly ran a red light and struck another car, killing himself and the woman driving the other vehicle.
The woman's young daughter, strapped into a car seat, survived the crash, and neighbors who came to help the child described the scene as horrendous.
Troy police identified the driver of the fleeing car as Jalen T. Alexander, 19, of Troy. Chelsey R. Vollmer, 32, of Dayton, drove the other vehicle, which was not involved in the chase. Both were pronounced dead at the scene.
Troy police said Alexander had outstanding warrants in Miami County for felonious assault and child abuse/endangering and also had a warrant in Greene County for a court order violation.
The chase prompted Dayton Daily News readers to ask about police pursuit policies. Gov. Mike DeWine twice in recent years has called for more standardized policies regarding pursuits in Ohio.
"Far too often, people are killed or seriously injured because a driver chooses to flee from police," DeWine said in 2019 as he called for a standard for law enforcement vehicular pursuits, "which would be beneficial in instances where pursuits cross jurisdictional lines and could ultimately help save lives."
Troy Police Chief Shawn McKinney did not respond Tuesday to questions about police chase policies and procedures or about Tuesday's chase.
Cedarville University Associate Professor of Criminal Justice Steve Meacham said the decisions of the suspect started the incident.
"That person's actions put people's lives in danger. There's the responsibility as far as two people are dead today. It's a very tragic situation," he said.
A woman riding inside Alexander's vehicle was taken to Miami Valley Hospital for care, and Vollmer's infant child was taken Dayton Children's for treatment, both reportedly suffering serious injuries. Their conditions were not available Wednesday.
"We had to extricate victims out of the cars," Bethel Twp. (Miami County) Fire Chief Andy Erhart said. "Once the extractions were complete, the transports to the hospital took place."
Troy police said the incident started around 8 a.m. when officers in the area of Stonyridge Avenue and Imperial Court were looking for Alexander.
"The officer was aware that the suspect was in possession of a 9mm Glock pistol when stopped by Troy officers on March 7," read a release from Troy police.
An officer saw a vehicle that he believed belonged to Alexander and attempted to stop him, but the suspect fled, eventually going south on state Route 202.
The Miami County Sheriff's Office tried to stop the car using stop sticks at the intersection of state Route 202 and Ross Road. However, the suspect continued on until he crashed into Vollmer's car at U.S. 40.
The Ohio State Highway Patrol is investigating the crash.
Neighbors rushed outside to discover what they called a horrendous crash.
Jennifer Cain, a neighbor who lives next door to the scene, said she heard a loud crash and raced outside even as debris continued to fall to the ground.
"I immediately went over to that vehicle, and as I went around, I saw a woman that did not look alive and I heard a baby cry, and I stopped and I listened again and heard the baby cry again," she said.
She said she waved the police over to the vehicle because of the baby, and first responders got the girl out of the car. Cain asked if she could stay with the girl, and she was allowed to.
"I had my husband get a blanket,' Cain said. "She was alert, she was fussing. She had a little bump on her head and just a couple of scratches ... When she would go close her eyes, I would just stroke her cheek and hold her hand and was talking to her, telling her that she was a good girl and that she was all right."
Cain said other neighbors also comforted the child while on scene and made sure someone was with the baby until paramedics were able to take the child to Dayton Children's Hospital. She said she believes the child's car seat saved her life.
Glenn Linn said that Vollmer's car hit his porch.
"I seen a crushed up car and went out to the car and hollered if anybody was OK, and nobody answered, so I went inside and dialed 9-1-1," Linn said. "The next thing I heard was sirens."
"It sounded like it went on for five minutes, but it probably went on for seconds," Linn said. "It sounded like forever because I heard the crash, and then I got up and went to the door and she was coming in the driveway, so it was a long type of crash. I guess she must have been rolling or something like that because it was just horrendous."
Jason Gregory was waiting with his daughter for her school bus and said he saw a car he thought was going 100 mph before the crash.
"As soon as I said 'Wow, that car is flying,' boom. I looked up and I could see the light was red where it was coming through," Gregory said.
Cedarville's Meacham said that, generally, the decision to engage in a police chase is made on a case-by-case basis. He said police have a tough and dangerous job.
If the person pulled over and complied with police, the crash wouldn't have happened, he said.
"That person had all the reasons to pull over and stop and chose to flee," Meacham said.
Tuesday's crash wasn't the first time in recent years in which an innocent person was killed as part of a police chase in Miami County. In 2017, Anthony Hufford, 28, of Englewood, was struck and killed.
In that case, two Troy police officers and two Tipp City officers pursued a stolen pickup truck. The Troy officers and one Tipp City officer ended their pursuit, according to reports at the time, but communication issues caused the second Tipp City officer to continue.
The fleeing pickup crashed into Hufford's vehicle. Officers were about 30 to 40 seconds away from the crash, according to the reports.