BENTON COUNTY, Wash. — Sunday, the Benton County Sheriff’s Office and Washington State Patrol chased down a car. They arrested four people in the car. One was the driver, who had allegedly shot a gun while driving down Interstate 82.
The rules for police chases are strict, but police said this one fits the criteria.
Eric Eisinger, the Benton County Prosecutor, calls the 2021 police reform laws, “some of the most frustrating changes in the law,” in the last couple of years.
“I think that the idea that you could watch someone steal your car and drive away and you could even call it to an officer across the street, ‘Hey, Officer, that person just stole my car,’ and the police under the current law would have to say ‘I'm really sorry, I can't even pursue that vehicle...’ that just doesn't even seem right,” said Eisinger.
Police in Washington are only allowed to pursue a vehicle if they’ve confirmed a violent offense or a sex offense has taken place.
On Sunday, just after 4 p.m., police got the report of a situation happening on I-82 near Coffin Road.
“911 callers reported that the driver of this vehicle pointed a gun at him and then shot the gun in the air,” said WSP Trooper Chris Thorson.
The driver made it down to Oregon, where OSP troopers began a pursuit.
“That vehicle turned around and went back into Washington State,” explained Thorson.
He said we don’t see many police chases in Washington anymore, following the new laws, but in this case, he said it was called for.
“If we have someone going down the highway, shooting at people, then that's going to fit one of the prongs for us to engage in that,” said Trooper Thorson.
Spike strips were unsuccessful to stop the car, a 2019 Subaru Legacy, so the Benton County Sheriff’s Office performed a PIT maneuver to spin out the car.
Trooper Thorson said the driver was arrested on several charges. He said all three of the passengers were arrested, and one was released.
Eric Eisinger said he believes the rise in crime rates and the recent police reform legislation do go hand-in-hand. We’re seeing car pursuits being discussed this week in upcoming legislation.
Rylee Fitzgerald joins the KAPP/KVEW team as a multimedia journalist as her first job in journalism after graduating college. She graduated from the Edward R. Murrow College of Communication at Washington State University with a degree in Journalism and Media Production in May 2022.
She started her journalism career at Hanford High School in Richland where she spent four years on the Falcon Report broadcasting team. She is an ardent writer and is typically found hunched over her computer writing either her novel, or a news story. With her love for writing, and her high school experience in broadcasting, nothing made more sense than to continue studying journalism in college.
Rylee finished her degree in just three years as an ambassador for the communication college, a producer for a Cable 8 Productions series, a camera operator for CougVision, and an MMJ for Murrow News 8. She spent a summer as a news intern at our sister station, KXLY, in Spokane before her senior year at WSU.
Rylee was born and raised in Tri-Cities, and eagerly comes back home after finishing college. She has a lot of pride for eastern Washington, as it’s the only place she’s ever called home.