Just when you think television news helicopters are mostly hype, one of them comes up with a story so riveting they should sell popcorn with it.
WMC-TV Channel 5's coverage of Monday's police chase through Crittenden County, Arkansas, and Memphis was such a story. There were enough blue lights, near crashes, and escapes before the takedown for an entire episode of Cops
The chasee was even named Simpson. From another perspective, the chase could become a training video for do's and dont's of hot pursuit, as four law enforcement agencies played roles in the drama.
Jeremy Simpson, 22, of Paragould, Arkansas was arraigned Wednesday in General Sessions Court in Memphis. A female companion in the car was not arrested because she was not a willing participant.
Simpson initially fled Gilmore, Arkansas police in a stolen car Monday afternoon about 5 p.m. By the time he reached the Hernando-DeSoto Bridge coming into downtown Memphis, he had lost his right rear tire and was riding on the rim, trailing sparks several feet behind him. Video clips show at least ten police cars in pursuit crossing the bridge.
Major Mark McClain with the traffic division of the Memphis Police Department said MPD cars did not join the chase.
"We do not pursue unless they are violent offenders," he said.
An MPD helicopter followed the chase and MPD officers, including a canine unit, were on hand for the takedown in Raleigh.
McClain said other police departments are "not obligated to adhere to our pursuit policy" when they enter Memphis. In this case, there were cars from Gilmore, Jericho, and the Arkansas State Police involved in the chase.
"The biggest problem in something like this is a communications problem," McClain said.
The video shows different cars taking the lead in the chase on Interstate 40, Danny Thomas, North Parkway, Summer Ave., Jackson Ave. and through Nutbush and Raleigh. In some places, MPD cars can be seen trying to block traffic, and at one point the fleeing vehicle passes a police car that does not have its flasher on.
Simpson drives on the median, in turn lanes, through numerous crowded intersections, and against lanes of oncoming traffic several times. He appears to bump at least one car, but there were no crashes. Once a police car bumped Simpson's red compact from the rear to no avail. And once Simpson was boxed in by two police cars but escaped by cutting through a service station.
Chopper Five, as WMC-TV calls it, twice reports that "MPD is still in pursuit," but it isn't clear on the video how many cars are in the chase or where they are from.
"Something's gonna have to culminate before long, buddy, I'm running out of fuel," pilot Jim York says after about 20 minutes as cameraman Blake Johnson follows the action.
Later York, a former policeman, says "We're hanging in there . . . . There are still MPD and Arkansas units in pursuit along with Memphis aviation."
In a particularly harrowing scene, Simpson weaves in and out of oncoming traffic as he approaches Stage Road. By this time it's dark and the cars have their headlights on. Finally Simpson slows down at an apparent dead end and a black police car from Gilmore bumps the red car and blocks it. Officers get out, guns drawn, and yank Simpson and his companion out of the car and throw them to the ground. At least ten officers are in the picture within a few seconds, including one with a police dog.
Simpson was charged Wednesday with reckless driving, registration violations, unlawful possession of a weapon and a felony count of evading arrest. His bond was set at $75,000.