High Speed Chase Ends With Crash Into A Tree

Park Forest, IL—(ENEWSPF)— A high speed chase last Wednesday wound its way through the Beacon Hill area in Chicago Heights and ended with a crash in Park Forest’s East Lincolnwood neighborhood.  All the passengers in the vehicle were injured, with one pinned inside. 

On January 2, at approximately 10:15 p.m., Commander Winfrey was on patrol traveling northbound on Western Avenue approaching Illinois St.. He observed a green Nissan Maxima traveling southbound on Western Avenue from Illinois Street. According to police, this vehicle had only one headlight, and matched the description of a vehicle stolen on January 1 from the 100 block of Westwood Drive in Park Forest.

Commander Winfrey performed a U-turn, and pulled behind the Nissan. Winfrey activated his squad’s emergency lights, and attempted to stop the Nissan as it approached Beacon Boulevard. As he pulled directly behind the Nissan, he observed the registration plate of the vehicle to be partially covered with snow. The first three characters were “T55”, which matched the first three characters of the Nissan stolen on January 1. The Nissan allegedly failed to yield and turned eastbound on to Beacon Boulevard. Winfrey activated his squad’s siren and shined his squad’s spotlight on the rear window of the Nissan. There appeared to be three subjects inside the car: the driver, a front passenger, and a rear passenger sitting on the passenger side. The Nissan continued driving despite Commander Winfrey’s attempt to stop it, eventually turning eastbound on Brookline, where it accelerated rapidly, according to police.

As the Nissan neared the east end of Brookline, two Chicago Heights squad cars, unaware of the pursuit, were patrolling in the area. One of the squads, occupied by Officers Fennimore and Kostecka, was facing eastbound on Brookline. The driver of that squad car activated the car’s emergency lights when he saw the fleeing Nissan. The driver of the Nissan allegedly drove directly at the Chicago Heights Police Department squad car. The driver of the CHPD squad car was forced to put his squad in reverse and back up to avoid being struck by the Nissan. The Nissan drove off the roadway and turned southbound onto Revere Street without signaling, according to police. The Nissan continued back to Beacon Boulevard.

On Beacon Boulevard, just east of Western Avenue, Park Forest Officer Obremski stopped traffic with his squad car to avoid any potential collisions. When the Nissan reached the intersection of Beacon Boulevard and Western Avenue, the traffic control light turned green. The Nissan narrowly missed colliding with a vehicle that was starting to turn southbound onto Western from Beacon when the Nissan drove into the oncoming lanes of traffic to pass the other vehicle on the left, in the intersection, according to police. The Nissan continued westbound on North Street.

Commander Winfrey’s squad, with lights and sirens still activated, reached a speed of 67 mph in a 30 mph zone, and the Nissan pulled away rapidly, according to police. The Nissan turned northbound onto Orchard Drive, and started to pull away far enough that Commander Winfrey terminated pursuit. Winfrey then saw the Nissan turned eastbound on to Indiana St., re-entering a residential area. The Nissan appeared not to have slowed down despite Commander Winfrey’s squad not being close behind. Winfrey, fearing that a pedestrian or vehicle could be struck in the residential area resumed attempting to stop the Nissan. The Nissan turned right onto Early Street, and Winfrey lost sight of it.

In the intersection of Early and Larue Streets, Winfrey located the Nissan. It had traveled off the roadway and struck a tree on the east side of Early Street. An ambulance was immediately requested for any possible injuries.

Commander Winfrey approached the Nissan and saw that the driver’s door was open and there was nobody in the driver’s seat. Winfrey radioed the fact that the driver had fled and attended to the passengers. Officer Obremski arrived and assisted.

The front seat passenger, a 16-year-old male, appeared disoriented and stated that his hip hurt. The rear seat passenger, a 21-year-old male, was pinned inside the vehicle and complained of leg pain. Both of the men stated that Shannon Rice was driving the car. There was a strong odor of burnt cannabis coming from inside the vehicle, according to police. The Nissan’s registration matched that of the vehicle stolen on January 1.

Detectives DeVries and Beilke arrived in the area and located a male subject known to them as Shannon Rice walking from the rear yard of a house in the 200 block of Kentucky. Rice had blood on his face. They ordered him to stop, but he allegedly fled on foot into the backyard of that same house. He was unable to scale a fence in the yard, and was taken into custody.

According to police, Rice told them that he had been driving the Nissan and asked about the condition of his friends, whom he had left in the wrecked car. He was placed in the back seat of Officer Moore’s squad car until an ambulance could be called to determine if he needed medical attention. While Rice was in the back seat of the squad car, a show-up was conducted in which Chicago Heights Police Department Officer Fennimore observed Rice. Fennimore positively identified Rice as the individual driving the Nissan when it almost struck the CHPD squad car. Fennimore stated that he had shined his vehicle spotlight directly into Rice’s face when he almost struck the squad car. Rice was transported to St. James Hospital in Olympia Fields.

Commander Winfrey spoke to one of the injured passengers while awaiting paramedics. The man said that Rice had been driving, and had picked him up approximately 10 minutes before the pursuit. When he heard over the police radio at the scene that the Nissan was stolen, he stated that he did not know that the car was stolen. He was transported to St. James Hospital in Olympia Fields.

The other passenger remained pinned in the Nissan. Park Forest Fire Fighters and paramedics had to extricate him. The door and roof of the Nissan had to be removed, and extrication tools were used to spread open the vehicle’s parts enough to remove the man from the car. He was then transported to St. James Hospital in Olympia Fields.

Officers Moore and Lara went to St. James Hospital in Olympia Fields. At the hospital, Rice was read his Warning to Motorist and consented to blood and urine testing. The hospital had already collected blood samples during the routine course of his medical treatment. Rice was found to have a positive presence of THC, the intoxicating component of cannabis, according to police. He also had bruised ribs and lungs. One of the other passengers was found to have a fractured pelvis, and the third had a broken right femur and a dislocated left shoulder and hip.

On January 3, at approximately 6 p.m., Rice was released from St. James Hospital and transported to the Park Forest Police Station. During an interview later with Commander Winfrey, Rice was advised of his Miranda rights. According to the report, he "knowingly and intelligently" waived them. Rice stated that he believed his mother had hired an attorney to represent him, but agreed to answer some questions without the presence of that attorney, according to police.

He told police that on the afternoon of January 1, he was in Chicago Heights when he met a male subject who he knows only as "Johnny." Police say he told them Johnny is a drug dealer who sometimes takes cars in trade for the drugs he sells. Johnny asked Rice if he wanted to rent a car. Rice gave Johnny $100, and Johnny gave Rice the key to the Nissan. Rice drove the car home, but parked it away from his house because he thought something might be "wrong" with the car, according to police. On January 2, Rice met up with the other two men who were in the car when it crashed, and decided to go to a friends house in Beacon Hill. When they were on Western Avenue, they saw a police car do a U-turn to get behind them, so Rice "punched it."

According to police, Rice said he was driving over 80 mph, lost control and the car struck a tree. He tried to run home, but got caught by the police.

On January 4, Commander Winfrey spoke with one of the injured passengers who was still in the hospital. He stated that when the police car did a U-turn and put its lights on, Rice told him that he couldn’t pull over because he had a gun with him.

Commander Winfrey searched the area around the crash scene for any weapon that might have been disposed of by Rice when he fled the stolen vehicle. No weapon was located in the area. Commander Winfrey, not familiar with the exact area where Rice had been taken into custody by Detectives DeVries and Beilke, requested that the detectives search that area for a firearm. Detective DeVries located a handgun in the snow in the exact area where Rice had been arrested.

After reviewing the facts of the case, Assistant States Attorney Grekstas approved the following charges against Shannon Rice, 17, 225 Early St., Park Forest: two counts of aggravated driving under the influence of drugs (one count for each injured passenger), one count of aggravated fleeing and eluding police, one count of felony leaving the scene of a personal injury accident, and one count of aggravated unlawful use of a weapon. In addition, according to police, Rice will be charged with a misdemeanor charge of criminal trespass to a motor vehicle and reckless driving for his actions which almost caused a crash with a Chicago Heights Police Department car.