Utah veteran facing charges after intervening in police chase says ‘I stand by what I did’

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WEST VALLEY CITY, Utah -- Hero or vigilante, it depends who you ask regarding a West Valley City police chase that ended when an Iraq War veteran decided to take matters into her own hands and ultimately got arrested.

For more than 20 minutes, police chased a stolen red Nissan truck around the city in the early hours of Sunday morning. According to police, the suspect reached speeds of 80 miles per hour, at one point turning off the headlights, driving on the opposite side of the road, and nearly hitting an officer.

That’s when Rachelle Fernandez stepped in, or you could say, drove in.

”I just saw like sparks and stuff, ‘oh my gosh they are chasing this guy,’” Fernandez said. “Pure reaction, I put two and two together, and I felt like I have to do something.”

Fernandez unsuccessfully attempted to ram the stolen vehicle with her own truck at the intersection of 3200 West and 3500 South.

“I’m just tired of standing on the sidelines, I just wanted to help," she said. "I feel if you can help somebody instead of standing back and watching it and filming it you should."

Fernandez points to her time in combat, serving in Iraq as a member of the Marines, as the reason why she reacted like she did.

“I feel that’s what they teach you: If you can help, if you can be a part of the solution, you should,” Fernandez said. “I thought it kind of helped because 30 seconds later the chase was over.”

West Valley City Police arrested 26-year-old Andre Cruz Martinez, the suspect in the stolen truck. He faces a number of charges, including attempted homicide on a police officer and possession of a stolen vehicle.

As for Fernandez, police are not giving her credit for helping with the arrest, in fact, it was quite the opposite, as she was also arrested.

“Sometimes people try to do the right thing and it’s just wrong,” said Lt. Jeff Conger of the West Valley City Police Department. “She put herself in danger, she put our officers in danger also, so luckily she didn’t injure herself. She didn’t injure any of us.”

Fernandez faces two misdemeanor charges of interfering with an arrest and failure to yield to an emergency vehicle. She said she isn’t about to apologize for what she did.

“I stand by my decision, I stand by what I did," she said. "I don’t care what anybody says: If you feel you can help in any way, you should."

12 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.

  • anotherbob

    What she did was too risky, the cops were already in pursuit and thus she should have stayed back and let them do their thing. IMO this wasn’t like the other year when that guy in his large truck decided to crash into the fleeing vehicle that was headed back towards the park full of kids, in this case it sounds like it was a routine chase and she interfered when she didn’t absolutely need to. I hope they don’t go after her for any charges are anything but people need to know they can’t just hop into an active police chase. It doesn’t matter who you are or if you’re a veteran, she is not trained in chases like the officers are and could have easily killed somebody trying to ram the fleeing vehicle.

  • John Robert Mallernee

    Hurrah for her!
    Citizens are supposed to get involved in fighting crime and saving lives, and should assist police whenever possible.
    Charges against her should be summarily dismissed, with apologies, and she should be publicly commended.
    Good job, Marine!

  • bob

    She is a hero. The perp was endangering the lives of the public just as surely as if she were firing bullets randomly into a crowd.

    IF the cops were LEGALLY involved in a high speed chase it’s only because the suspect was considered to be such a dire threat to the lives and safety of the public that use of deadly force was justified. A high speed chase IS deadly force.

    If he WASN’T that dangerous then their chase was illegal and they’re as guilty as he was of endangering innocent people.

    She based her decision on the assumption that what the cops were doing was legal and justified, and therefore her actions were heroic.

    This is OUR society. It doesn’t belong to the cops. They are employees.

  • Utah Red

    Cops tell us all the time they want our help. Then when this brave woman helps they arrest her? What message did they just send us? How many cops are saved from a beating or death each year because of the public interfering in an arrest? Be careful what you ask for, Blue.

  • TruthSeeker

    This Hero should not be charged for going out of her way to try to stop a criminal from committing crimes. Her efforts may have stopped someone from getting killed. In order to stop evil in this world it is going to take a lot more citizens getting involved, and we should celebrate them when they do so, not charge them with trumped up charges.

  • thetrmn8r

    What she did was reckless and foolhardy. Interjecting yourself in a high speed pursuit where the police are already involved is insane. Maybe she has battle fatigue or something. She should be examined.

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