Multiple county vehicle pursuit results in arrest

BENTON HARBOR — A long and complicated vehicle pursuit spanning multiple counties ended in the arrest of a suspect and the safe return of an infant to her mother Wednesday morning.

According to the Berrien County Sheriff’s Department, around 2 a.m. Wednesday, Berrien County 911 Dispatch was contacted by Van Buren County Dispatch that they were in pursuit of a vehicle on I-94 going into Berrien County. Dispatch advised that the driver, a 30-year-old from Portage, was a suspect in a domestic violence case that initially fled from the Portage Police Department.

Van Buren Dispatch also advised that the suspect had his 1-year-old daughter in the vehicle, who was not wearing a proper seatbelt. They also told Berrien County that the suspect was possibly intoxicated and possibly armed with a handgun.

Speeds of the pursuit leaving Van Buren County were reaching over 110 miles per hour. Van Buren County stopped the chase at the Berrien County border, and the Berrien County Sheriff’s Office chose not to pursue the vehicle out of caution for the safety of the child.

The vehicle continued at a high rate of speed heading toward Benton Harbor, where the suspect was known to have family and a former address.

Deputies followed at a distance, without lights and sirens, for an extended period before losing sight of the vehicle. The vehicle was later spotted on M139 and Pipestone Road by Michigan State Police, moving at a slow pace. The suspect then sped up, turned off his lights and was lost again in Benton Harbor.

At 2:28 a.m., residents of the 900 block of Jennings Street in Benton Harbor reported a crash in which a vehicle had flipped and was on its roof.  Deputies and officers rushed to the scene but found it was not the vehicle they were looking for with the suspect and baby. The driver involved in the accident had mild injuries and appeared to be intoxicated.

The driver of the crashed car was transported to a nearby hospital, but while on the route — around 3:09 a.m. — the suspect vehicle with the baby inside was driving with its headlights off, ran a stop sign and almost ran into the side of the ambulance. The car was then seen going airborne before bottoming out on the road.

The vehicle was lost again. Deputy Brandon Crosby, with his K-9 partner Blek, saw the suspect vehicle, with its lights still off, on Pipestone and Britain. The suspect’s vehicle was later found with a blown-out tire in a yard on Main Street. The suspect and the child were not in the car.

A perimeter was set up, and Deputy Crosby with K-9 Blek began to track the suspect. During the track, several articles of clothing were found.  In the 1200 block of Vincent Court, K-9 Blek located the suspect hidden behind a shed. K-9 Blek apprehended the suspect, biting him in the arm.  Deputies then took the suspect into custody.  The suspect’s one-year-old daughter was also found behind him and was not harmed.

In looking through the articles of clothing left by the suspect, a handgun was located in a pant leg.

The suspect was taken to Lakeland Hospital, where he was treated for the K-9 bite. The 1-year old daughter was also taken to Lakeland Hospital and checked by staff before being reunited with her mother.

The suspect’s name is being withheld pending arraignment.

The Berrien County Sheriff’s Department was assisted by the Benton Township Police Department, Michigan State Police, the St. Joseph Township Police Department, the Portage Police Department, Van Buren Sheriff’s Office and Medic One Ambulance.

K-9 Blek is the Berrien County Sheriff’s Office newest member of the K-9 team and has been in service since November 2019.