Utah teen accused of dragging, hitting officer before high-speed chase

Utah teen accused of dragging, hitting officer before high-speed chase

Utah teen accused of dragging, hitting officer before high-speed chase




Posted on August 8, 2014 at 9:21 AM

Updated Friday, Aug 8 at 9:21 AM

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Weber County, UT (KUTV) -- A Utah teen is accused of dragging and hitting a police officer with a stolen car before leading multiple agencies on a high-speed chase through Weber County.

Clinton police alerted Riverdale investigators of a stolen vehicle that appeared, through an OnStar search, to be at a trailer park in the city. 

A Riverdale police sergeant found Juan Betancourt, 19, in the stolen Chevrolet Malibu, on Wednesday morning, leaving a friend's home near 4375 South Weber River Dr., according to Lt. James Ebert. The sergeant parked his truck in front of the car, talked to the suspect and tried to stop him from leaving, as another officer arrived to provide backup, Ebert said.

"He believed that the driver was going to try to escape, so he attempted to reach in to turn the vehicle off, when the driver then put the vehicle in drive and drove away, dragging the officer," Ebert said, unsure how the sergeant became stuck in the vehicle. "The sergeant was thrown from the vehicle and then struck by the vehicle. And we're lucky he wasn't [run] over and had some type of internal injuries."

Dashboard-camera video shows the second officer stop to check on the injured sergeant, lying hurt on the ground, before calling for an ambulance and chasing the suspect.

The pursuing officer clocks the suspect traveling up to 90 miles per hour as he winds north through Ogden, running lights on both commercial and residential streets. At one point, the suspect takes a corner and drives up over a curb onto the grass. Both the suspect's and the officer's vehicles stop, just as the dash-cam video ends.

Ebert said the officer most likely hit the record button inadvertently while turning the corner or while exiting his car. But the pursuit continued for a few more minutes. The suspect drove away and finally jumped out of his car. Officers found him hiding in a nearby shed, Ebert said.

During the final moments of the chase, however, the lead pursuing officer from Riverdale took a corner and crashed his patrol car into a mailbox.

An accident review board will investigate the crash, as is policy, but Ebert believes the officer was attempting a maneuver to stop the suspect and prevent him from further endangering the public.

Riverdale police hope to fix the nearly totaled car, but the department of 19 officers is more focused on the recovery of their sergeant, who has shoulder and knee pain and is preparing for surgery.

"When we see a fellow officer injured, you know, it becomes a little emotional," Ebert said. "And when you see someone who is acting in a manner that puts so many people in danger, it gets you a little frustrated that the penalties aren't higher."

Police believe Betancourt is homeless and has been living in stolen cars.

Betancourt allegedly confessed to other vehicle thefts and told arresting officers he attempted to flee because he did not want to go back to jail.

"People who are evading law enforcement are more concerned about their own personal freedom than they are about other people's safety," Ebert said. "In this case, we had by numerous people that were put in danger."

Betancourt faces charges of evading, aggravated assault on a police officer and possession of a stolen vehicle, as well as numerous traffic offenses.

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