Bangor, MI – The sheriff of Van Buren County executed a flawless PIT maneuver and stopped a wanted arsonist on Friday morning after he led police on a high-speed chase (video below).
Van Buren County Sheriff Daniel Abbott said that James Ochoa-Rodriguez set his girlfriend’s car on fire after a domestic dispute at about 3 a.m. on Aug. 16, WWMT reported.
A few hours later, South Haven police said that Ochoa-Rodriguez was involved in a fight at a Shell gas station on Broadway Street and pointed a handgun at someone.
Police pursued Ochoa-Rodriguez’s vehicle and Sheriff Abbott said the SUV’s occupants pointed guns at police during the chase, according to WWMT.
However, the driver of the suspect vehicle was stopping at stop signs and not driving down the wrong side of the road, so the sheriff’s deputies and police officers continued the pursuit.
“When he went by our K-9 officer, a hand gun was pointed at him,” Sheriff Abbott said. “We don’t like to pursue but in this situation and what just took place at South Haven with the gun pointed at officers, it was one of those that we felt we needed to continue on with the pursuit.”
The sheriff had been at the initial arson crime scene after Ochoa-Rodriquez started the car fire, so he said he had an idea of where the man was headed as he fled from police, WWMT reported.
He said he was back out on the street for the chase because he couldn’t sleep.
“A lot of times when I can’t sleep well, I’ll get up shave, shower, and come in and help out the road guys, and work the road for a while before I actually come into the office,” Sheriff Abbott said.
So on Friday morning, the sheriff took a leading role in stopping the arsonist on the run, WWMT reported.
He joined the pursuit after the 911 calls came in from the Shell station New Haven.
A few minutes later, he was the second car behind the suspect vehicle, WWMT reported.
“So I asked our K9 unit to move over and I was going to PIT him at the next intersection. I had a good idea where he was going,” Sheriff Abbott said.
Dashcam video from the pursuit showed the sheriff executing a flawless Pursuit Intervention Technique (PIT) maneuver that cause the suspect’s SUV to spin into the ditch facing the wrong way.
As the car spun and came to a stop, a red plastic gas can flew out of the window.
Police suspected it was the gas can used to start the fire in the car at Ochoa-Rodriguez’s girlfriend’s apartment complex, WMMT reported.
Even after the suspect’s SUV was stuck in the ditch, Ochoa-Rodriguez continued to try to escape.
“He kept his foot on the accelerator after he figured out what was going on, kept driving and was trying to move when we were trying to put him in the custody,” Sheriff Abbott explained. “So if he would’ve been in a level spot there’s a good chance he would’ve took off and hit one of our patrol cars, or officers that were at the scene, and the pursuit would have started up again.”
Police surrounded the vehicle and pulled one of the occupants in the back seat out through the window, the video showed.
Initially, Ochoa-Rodriguez was uncooperative and refused to follow commands.
Police deployed a Taser and police dog to bring the suspect into custody, the video showed.
Sheriff Abbott said he did the PIT maneuver because he was worried about what would happen if Ochoa-Rodriguez made it back to his girlfriend’s apartment complex, WMMT reported.
“My biggest fear along with the officers’ biggest fear was if he got into that apartment complex, and you have kids and families in there,” Abbott said. “If they bail out with guns they could’ve went very south with a lot of different people. That’s why I decide to PIT them when I did, to try and avoid that situation because I knew the public would be in danger.”
Ochoa-Rodriguez was arrested and charged with operating under the influence, fleeing and eluding, and resisting and obstructing, WMMT reported.
However, Sheriff Abbott said his office would be pursuing charges on a number of additional felonies.
South Haven police said they found a pellet gun and other evidence of the arson in Bangor in the suspect’s vehicle, WMMT reported.
The Bangor Police Department was investigating the arson incident.
“We had a lot of good competent deputies on today, Dispatch did a great job, Bangor PD did a great job, everybody did a nice job,” Sheriff Abbott told WMMT. “Communication was clear and everybody knew what everybody was doing ahead of time and it was just smooth the whole operation as to where to everybody was safe during the whole thing.”
Watch the sheriff stop the suspect’s SUV in the video below: