Crime

17-Year-Old Driver Leads Law Enforcement on Night Time Vehicle Pursuit in Northern Mendocino County

At approximately 10:15 on the evening of August 24, 2021 Mendocino County Sheriff’s Office deputies attempted a traffic stop on a black Dodge ram which resulted in a vehicle pursuit exceeding speeds of 100 miles per hour and the eventual detainment and citation of the 17-year-old driver and 19-year-old passenger. 

Sergeant Matthew Harvey of the California Highway Patrol Garberville Office told us the pursuit began on Highway 101 near the intersection with Reynolds highway after MCSO deputies attempted to stop the vehicle for “oversized tires,” a safety concern associated with vehicle being too high off the ground which can throw mud and other hazards behind a vehicle. CHP was requested to take over the pursuit while MCSO deputies continued to assist. 

Sergeant Harvey said CHP’s Laytonville’s resident post officer got into position and took over as the primary unit continuing north on Highway 101 where the vehicle reached speeds of 100 miles per hour.

The vehicle cut east on Highway 162, a particularly windy road driving up to 90 miles per hour, where Sergeant Harvey said the driver “continued to evade” driving at a high rate of speed. Traffic was light at that hour and as law enforcement observed the vehicle “showing driving behavior consistent with reckless driving.”

The vehicle cut north on Dos Rios road and stayed right onto Poonkinney Road, a road once again characterized by tight corners and thin lanes. The pursuing officer “briefly lost sight of the vehicle” on Poonkinney Road and chose to discontinue the pursuit, continued searching, and found the vehicle unoccupied and abandoned on the side of Poonkinney Road.

At that point, both MCSO deputies and Round Valley Tribal Police were enroute to the location and Sergeant Harvey explained that as Tribal Police rounded a corner they located and detained who they believed and later confirmed were the driver and passenger of the vehicle.

Sergeant Harvey said the driver of the vehicle was a 17-year-old male from Round Valley who was placed under arrest for felony evading, violation of probation terms, and delaying/obstructing/resisting a police officer. The driver’s name cannot be released due to him being a minor. The minor was “released to a responsible parent at the scene,” Sergeant Harvey said.

Bryan Sachez [Mugshot from the Mendocino County Sheriff’s Booking Logs]

The passenger of the vehicle was identified as Bryan Sanchez-Montiel, a 19-year-old who was  placed under arrest for delaying/obstructing/resisting a police officer and violation of probation who was also cited and released at the scene.

Bryan Sanchez, according to press releases issued by the Mendocino County Sheriff’s Office, has been booked in the last year for felony residential burglary and found with a 17-year-old male at the Lake Mendocino Boat ramp in possession of heroin, cocaine, and a hand gun.

Initial reporting regarding the circumstances indicated responding officers were concerned a firearm could be involved and Sergeant Harvey explained that no firearms were located. He explained the vehicle’s registered owner is known to carry firearms, not the 17-year-old driver or 19-year-old passenger.

CHP Air Operations were actually dispatched out of Redding and en route to the vehicle pursuit that evening, but the pursuit was successfully ended before they reached location, Sergeant Harvey explained.

Considering the precipitous nature of the roadways involved in Tuesday night’s vehicle pursuit, Sergeant Harvey described the extensive training CHP officers undertake to safely maneuver their vehicles around the steep grades and hairpin turns of Mendocino County’s roadways. He told us CHP officers train for a variety of terrains, temperatures, and conditions.

Sergeant Harvey said there are specialized tracks CHP officers use to practice “S” curves at high speeds, understanding the dynamics of all of the vehicles (Dodge Chargers, Chevrolet Tahoes, old school Crown Victorias). CHP Officers practice how to recover a vehicle when it skids out of control and participate in annual reviews of these skills on “short, condensed tracks” designed to simulate the conditions where these skills are necessary.

Beyond the maneuvering, Sergeant Harvey said CHP officers are trained to constantly evaluate the risk vs. gain in continuing a vehicle pursuit. Pursuing officers have to always consider whether the risk of chasing the vehicle can endanger the public. There are several factors that inform that decision making including driving behavior, weather, and roadway conditions. He described this decision making process as complex requiring constant consideration and evaluation. CHP’s vehicle pursuit policy has actually been accredited by the Commission on Accreditation for Law Enforcement Agencies, Sergeant Harvey said.

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