TARGET 8: Driver arrested after high speed chase, MSHP explains pursuit practices
COLUMBIA — A pursuit that ended with a wrong way crash on Providence Road on Wednesday morning led to charges against the driver Thursday. According to the court documents obtained by KOMU 8 News, troopers believed the driver to be high on methamphetamine and in possession of marijuana.
Michael Wills was charged with two counts of second degree assault, resisting arrest and driving with a revoked license.
The chase began Wednesday morning when Missouri State Highway Patrol was flying over Interstate 70, looking for speeding drivers. A segeant flying the aircraft stated he spotted Wills' truck going 86 miles per hour, driving in the passing lane, and then getting off the interstate, driving through a ditch and heading to an outer road.
The trooper following Wills from a patrol car periodically used lights and sirens while following the truck, and the sergeant in the aircraft watched. Ultimately, court documents stated Wills ended up on Providence Road, avoided spike strips set out to stop him, and then crashed into another uninvolved car. Wills, his passenger, and the other driver were all injured.
Viewer comments and questions answered
After a Target 8 Facebook Live discussion, KOMU 8 News received many comments from viewers about the pursuit and reached out to law enforcement for background on officer training and the frequency of trooper pursuits.
One viewer wanted to know how important the person was that Missouri State Highway Patrol pursued.
Court documents show the driver, Michael Wills, has multiple prior convictions including two for driving while intoxicated, and one each for tampering with evidence and resisting, domestic assault, ID theft, resisting and assault of a law enforcement officer. Again, he was initially spotted for speeding and driving in the passing lane.
There were many commenters who witnessed the car chase or saw the accident.
We now know, according to court documents, the trooper who was pursuing Wills' car went through different periods of pursuit, sometimes relying on others to monitor the truck, and shortly before the wrongway crash had backed off, stating he "deactivated [his] emergency equipment and slowed down".
When law enforcement arrested Wills, he admitted to trying to eat marijuana while he was running away from law enforcement, and that he had been smoking marijuana and using methamphetamines.
As of Thursday, the 25-year-old driver of the other car was in serious condition. Wills and his passenger were in moderate condition.
Other viewers thought because of the risk of hurting or killing bystanders, law enforcement should only pursue cars if the driver committed a violent crime.
KOMU 8 News spoke to Lieutenant Paul Reinsch of the Missouri State Highway Patrol, who explained there are many different things taken into account for a pursuit.
"Any time a trooper gets involved in a pursuit, they're going to be monitoring that pursuit at troop headquarters. He's going to be relaying information to them about the traffic that's out there, weather conditions, what the initial reason is for the traffic stop, and in bringing that information back to the troop, they're going to be able to decide whether to terminate that pursuit or keep going," Reinsch said.
Reinsch also said that school zones and residential areas are taken into account when determining whether to pursue a suspect.
Reinsch said the best way for everyone to stay safe during a pursuit is to pull over to the right side of the road and get out of the way of troopers.
"Any emergency vehicle it says you should pull to the right as quickly and safely as you can," he said.
How often highway patrol chases happen in Missouri
MSHP keeps records of its involvement in suspect pursuits; KOMU 8 News obtained five years of records from the patrol for statewide pursuits, as well as those in the Troop F jurisdiction in mid-Missouri. According to data provided by MSHP, 2015 had the most pursuits in the past five years, with 425 statewide and 55 in the Troop F area.
As of Friday afternoon, MSHP said Wills is still in the hospital and has thereby not yet been arrested for his charges.
To view all of the court documents currently available in the Wills' case, including the probable cause narrative, criminal complaint, arrest warrant and bond request, see below.