'Trooper down!' Officers call for help after chase, shootout

AP News
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Posted: Jan 28, 2016 3:30 PM
'Trooper down!' Officers call for help after chase, shootout

MARIETTA, Ga. (AP) — Police radio calls released Thursday provide a glimpse of the high-speed chase on a busy interstate that ended with the driver of a pickup truck in a shootout with state troopers.

Officers scream "shots fired, shots fired" followed by "trooper down," according to the calls obtained by The Associated Press.

Troopers chased the pickup in and out of traffic at speeds of nearly 100 mph on Wednesday before it crashed into a civilian vehicle, authorities said. The driver got out with a handgun and started firing, wounding Trooper Jacob Fields in the leg and stomach, just below his bullet-proof vest, authorities said.

The driver, 26-year-old Israel Vladimir Rodriguez, was hit by troopers' gunfire. Rodrigeuz died at a hospital.

Fields had chased the Chevrolet Silverado for about 10 miles with two other troopers and they tried a "box-in maneuver" to bring it to a slow stop, highway patrol Capt. Mark Perry said. The Silverado crashed. No one else was seriously hurt.

Law enforcement agencies have various policies regarding how they may pursue vehicles, and under what circumstances.

Asked about the decision in this case, Perry told reporters Wednesday that "the criteria for a chase is at officer discretion."

"This gentleman is the one who chose to flee," Perry said of the suspect. "The trooper made the decision and this is something he will have to speak to at some point on why he chose to pursue at that point."

In Memphis, Tennessee, police officers started to pursue a car during a chase Wednesday but backed off, authorities said. The car eventually crashed as police officers were watching it and one of the suspects died in a shootout with police pursuing on foot. The officers were not hurt.

In the Georgia radio transmissions, a trooper tells the dispatcher that the pickup isn't stopping, and is "in and out of traffic" and failing to maintain its lane. The trooper says that the pickup is traveling 98 mph as the chase heads south down I-75, at times in the emergency lane. At one point, Fields pulls alongside the pickup.

"Southbound on Canton Road, I'm right beside him... He's a Hispanic male. He's on the cellphone with somebody, I can't tell. Will somebody get in front of him we can box him in."

About four minutes later, the urgent calls for help come.

Fields was improving Thursday after a successful surgery. Fellow troopers are taking turns staying by his side at the hospital.

"But for the grace of God, it could have been any of those troopers who were there," Perry said.

The Georgia Bureau of Investigation is looking into the shooting and trying to figure out why Rodriguez fled in his pickup.

Booking records from the Cobb County Sheriff's Office show Rodriguez had been arrested and jailed in 2008 for misdemeanor traffic charges of reckless driving, following another vehicle too closely and driving on a suspended or revoked license.

The records gave no other details surrounding Rodriguez's prior arrest, and they did not indicate how the courts ultimately dealt with the charges.

Fields, a 26-year-old trooper who has been on the force for three years, is expected to make a full recovery. He's from Jasper, Georgia, a small town in the foothills of the north Georgia mountains, about 45 miles north of the shootout.

All three troopers who exchanged fire with Rodriguez were placed on paid administrative leave during the investigation, standard procedure in such cases.

The southbound lanes were completely blocked off for several hours Wednesday with numerous police cars, fire trucks and an ambulance parked at the scene. Police diverted traffic off I-75 to clear the way for the investigation.

Many truck drivers pulled over and parked on the shoulder of the interstate during the traffic jam. Dozens of big rigs remained on the side of the highway before dawn Thursday, a sight reminiscent of the 2014 snow and ice storm that led to motorists to abandon their vehicles.

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Associated Press writers Jonathan Landrum Jr. in Atlanta, Russ Bynum in Savannah, Georgia, and Adrian Sainz in Memphis, Tennessee, contributed to this report.