After high-speed chase that ended with shoot out, Le Roy chief kept thinking of the 'what ifs'
No traffic stop is routine. Cadets are taught that truism at every law enforcement academy in the nation. Field trainers drum it into their heads when rookies first hit the road.
A "routine" traffic stop of a white tractor-trailer on Main Street in Le Roy last night turned out to be a stark reminder for his officers that they always need to be prepared for the unexpected, Le Roy Chief Chris Hayward said this morning.
Hayward got to bed late last night, slept fitfully and said what kept running through his head were all the "what if" scenarios. He considered how things could have turned out much worse after a trucker decided to lead local law enforcement on a high-speed pursuit through three counties. The trucker was killed in an apparent shoot-out at a location near Geneseo in Livingston County.
No bystanders nor officers were injured or killed. That's a relief, Hayward said.
"It's one of those things that you try to convey to your officers, especially your young officers, that there is no such thing as a routine traffic stop," Hayward said. "I think this incident conveyed that effectively. I'm thankful nobody was hurt last night.
"I kept thinking of all the 'what ifs,' " he added. "What if he decided to open fire on our officers on West Main Street rather than in Livingston County? You think of all of those scenarios and you're thankful for all of the young folks involved. I thought of all those officers in this situation and they did a tremendous job, as did the dispatchers in both counties, keeping the information flow going in both counties. The dispatchers did a tremendous job."
The chase started when a Le Roy officer initiated a traffic stop of the truck for speeding on West Main Street. The driver stopped and the officer approached the driver's side, climbed up on the running board to talk to the driver. The driver refused to provide documentation or identification. At that point, the officer backed off and requested backup.
When a second officer arrived, they both approached the driver again. They spoke to the driver, each positioned on opposite sides of the cab. At one point, one officer stepped off. Then the driver rolled up his window and started to drive away. The other officer was able to jump off the running board of the moving truck and was not hurt.
A deputy was arriving on scene at that point and the trucker rammed the patrol vehicle.
The three patrol vehicles then gave chase westbound on Route 5.
A witness in Stafford told The Batavian the pursuit passed her house at a high rate of speed. A short time later, she called back to say the truck and seven patrol vehicles were then eastbound.
"It's wild, like something out of a movie," she said.
That was a description others shared, Hayward said this morning.
There was nothing suspicious about the driver or the vehicle that popped up when officers ran -- as is routine on traffic stops -- the truck's plates, the chief said. He didn't have information at hand on where the truck was registered.
"We had nothing to explain at that time why the operator was doing what he was doing," Hayward said.
Officers were positioned at locations on Route 5 to set up possible spike strips, and at one point the trucker rammed a Le Roy patrol vehicle participating in that operation. The vehicle sustained significant damage but the officer was not hurt.
Sheriff Bill Sheron said he hadn't yet spoken with the officers involved this morning, so it wasn't clear to him how the trucker managed to execute a U-turn on Route 5.
"I think they were quite amazed, too, that he was able to maneuver the vehicle the way he did," Sheron said.
The trucker led officers back into the Village of Le Roy where he made a right-hand turn on Route 19, going southbound into Wyoming County, where Wyoming deputies joined the pursuit. The trucker continued to Route 63 into Livingston County.
He then reportedly stopped and began shooting at law enforcement officers.
Genesee County deputies were involved in exchanging gunfire with the driver, Sheron said.
One bullet from the driver went through a window of deputy's patrol vehicle, Sheron said, narrowly missing the head of the officer. Sheron declined to name the officer involved at this time.
"God must have been watching over us last night because it could have ended up much worse than it did," Sheron said. "That one vehicle took a round through the windshield and you can't get much closer. Thank God for every day."
Top Photo: The truck involved from this morning. All photos courtesy our news partner 13WHAM.