Two arrested after woman hoping to help police tries to ram vehicle during high-speed chase

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WEST VALLEY CITY, Utah -- Police pursuing a suspect at high speeds were interrupted in West Valley City early Sunday morning when a woman who took it upon herself to help the officers attempted to ram the suspect's vehicle.

The civilian cut off pursuing officers to make her attempt at a PIT maneuver, and both she and the suspect who was fleeing police have been booked into the Salt Lake County Jail.

A West Valley City police officer first spotted the suspect at 1 a.m. traveling at 80 mph in the area of 4700 South and 5600 West. During the officer’s pursuit, it was confirmed the truck the suspect was driving was stolen, said Lt. Jeff Conger, spokesman for West Valley City police.

As the officer requested assistance, Conger said, the driver of the truck continued to drive at a high rate of speed, turned off his headlights and drove on the opposite side of road.

Andre Martinez mugshotThe driver, identified as Andre Cruz Martinez, ended up driving into an apartment complex in the area of 4000 West and 3500 South. The officer set up spike strips at the exits.

“The driver saw the spikes and veered toward one of the officers and the officer jumped out of the way,” Conger said.

Video submitted by the Facebook group "Underworld of Utah" appears to show the suspect fleeing in the truck after the tires were spiked, as sparks fly from some of the wheels as it drives by. The video was shot around 1:15 a.m. in the area of 3500 South and 6400 West, see the video above for that footage.

Martinez hit a large rock but was able to continuing driving. Conger said the pursuit continued for about 20 minutes with speeds at 70 mph. Martinez drove on 4000 West out to 7200 West then back east to 3200 West.

“Right before the [end of the chase], a certain citizen thought that the police needed a little help and she got in the way of the officers, with their lights and sirens on, tried to ram the suspect vehicle, was unsuccessful,” Conger said. "So, shortly thereafter the suspect gave up. The  citizen was stopped also in that same area."

According to a statement of probable cause, the woman attempted a PIT maneuver on the suspect vehicle, cutting off the officer who was giving chase.

After failing to stop the suspect vehicle, the woman, identified as Rachelle J. Fernandez, continued in the police chase from the back of the following officers and failed to yield to pursuing officers' emergency lights and sirens.

"Rachelle interfered in the apprehension of the driver in the suspect vehicle," according to the probable cause statement.

The suspect was caught and arrested a short time later when vehicle he was driving failed to continue. The probable cause statement indicates Fernandez responded to the scene where Martinez was apprehended. She was also detained at that time.

"Rachelle's explanation for the interference was that she was trying to help officers and stop the suspect vehicle," the probable cause statement indicates.

rachelle fernandez mugshotRachelle J. Fernandez, was booked into the Salt Lake County Jail on misdemeanor charges of interfering with an arresting officer and failure to stop for an emergency vehicle.

“You know, sometimes people try to do the right thing, and it’s just wrong,” Conger said of Fernandez's decision to get involved. “And in this situation, maybe she tried, maybe her intent was good, but it was just wrong. Police had their lights and sirens on, you need to follow the law, pull to the right, yield so that we can do our job safely… she put herself in danger. She put our officers in danger.”

According to a statement of probable cause, Martinez denied knowing the vehicle he was driving was stolen.

He admitted to driving in an unsafe manner, but according to the PC statement he told police: "...that 'someone' had a 'gun' pointed at him in the vehicle and was telling him to drive in that manner and flee from police. Martinez was observed [as] the sole driver and occupant in the vehicle on numerous occasions during the incident."

Police said Martinez was booked into the Salt Lake County Jail and faces charges of attempted homicide on a police officer, possession of a stolen vehicle, fleeing in a vehicle, and other charges relating to outstanding warrants.

7 comments

  • miles (dave)

    i can easily respect what she did, there are countless other situations where this helping an officer would be appropriate (of course in most of those situations you would ask the officer if he or she needed help first) however in those cases the officer (or probably more accurately the police department) who excepts (putting emphisis on excepts) your help is then legally responsible for what happens to you. but in this case i dont think she asked if they needed help, i dont have a good reason to believe she had a police radio for communication which is very important in a tactical driving situation like this (who knows maybe there are children on board and she didnt know or maybe there is an explosive and the driver is crazy). but in this case i dont think she made the best call posible (she may have made the best call she knew how to and thats why i respect her) and as a result she could have easily enough made the situation worse.

    if it were my call id say no legal action against her but make it known that her trying to help is appreciated but that its not ok.

    • bob

      The citizen reasonably believed, based on the actions of the police, that the suspect was violent and dangerous. Not a mere car thief. Therefore, she’s a hero and did exactly the right thing.

      • miles (dave)

        a tactical driving situation like this requires a lot of communication and understanding of procedures and expectations. like i said before there could have been someone hostage in the car, a bomb, a child in the car that she could have killed if the vehicle had flipped during her tries to pit it, maybe the police were following knowing the car would have run out of fuel soon. (what she knows and thinks she knows dose not out way the important things she dose not know) the same reasons for a novice not getting involved in a high speed chase is the same as why you wouldnt walk up to a construction site and start working just because you felt like it. theirs just too much you dont know. theirs nothing she did that the police could have not done. she didnt bring any valuable thing to the situation there were plenty of police cars and larger suvs. if they needed anything else like a police truck they could have asked for it and got it and it would have came with a skilled officer who had the equipment needed to do it right. if she didnt bring anything that was needed then the only thing she brought were neutral and negative things.

  • bob

    A plate comes back stolen and the cops initiate a high speed pursuit? That’s illegal. A stolen vehicle doesn’t justify a high speed chase. High speed pursuit is “deadly force.” They can’t shoot the guy, and that would actually put the public in LESS danger.

    Not that they ever obey the law. I’m just saying.

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