A police chase ended in the dramatic rescue of an officer Thursday after police say a wanted man rammed his powerful extended-cab pickup head-on into the officer’s cruiser.
Two Charlotte-Mecklenburg police officers were injured during the east Charlotte chase.
Officer Richard E. Grubb was injured during the incident. At one point, the truck’s driver attempted to run over him and evaded the officer’s shots intended to stop him, police said.
The other injured officer, Keith R. Trietley, had to be rescued from his mangled and burning car after police say the truck slammed into it near the intersection of The Plaza and East Sugar Creek Road.
The truck’s driver, Francisco Rodriguez, 47, was also injured. He and the officers are expected to recover.
The chase started just before 2:30 p.m. when Grubb stopped a speeding truck near the intersection of Sharon Amity and Shamrock roads. As the officer was about to get out of his car, the driver of the truck put his vehicle in reverse, striking Grubb’s car before taking off, police said.
Grubb called for backup, police said, and chased the truck to a dead end about two miles away on Michigan Avenue.
Believing the driver would attempt to flee on foot, Grubb got out of his car, police said, but the driver again reversed, attempting to hit the officer.
Grubb fired two shots, but did not hit the suspect, police said.
The truck sped off and was traveling west on The Plaza when officer Trietley, who responded to the call for backup, approached from the opposite direction.
Witnesses told police they saw the truck appear to intentionally veer into Trietley’s lane, said police spokesman Rob Tufano, colliding head-on with the officer.
Ross McNear was nearby waiting to get his hair cut when he saw three police cruisers whiz by with sirens blaring. He said he saw one of the cars make a left turn onto The Plaza and then heard a crash.
He saw smoke and ran to help.
When he reached the wreck, he saw that the driver of the truck was badly injured but responsive. McNear and two others turned their efforts to Trietley, who was trapped inside his car and didn’t initially respond when they spoke to him.
“He looked like he was on the worse end of it,” McNear said.
The men tried to pull the injured officer from his cruiser, but the door wouldn’t budge, McNear said. When flames began to emerge from the car, onlookers found fire extinguishers to help put them out.
Firefighters arrived and worked to free Trietley, slicing off the top of the cruiser to reach him, as police blocked traffic in all directions.
Charlotte Fire Capt. Mark Basnight said the officer and the suspect were rescued from their vehicles within 25 minutes.
Both were transported — each escorted by police and N.C. Highway Patrol troopers — to Carolinas Medical Center for treatment for non-life threatening injuries.
Police were not able to say Thursday what speeds were reached during the chase.
Trietley was wearing a seat belt, which probably saved his life, said Police Chief Rodney Monroe.
Monroe said the officer suffered multiple fractures. “He’s pretty banged up,” Monroe said.
Rodriguez will be charged with driving while intoxicated, and police said investigators were seeking warrants late Thursday for felony speeding to elude police and assault charges. Police said there was also a warrant for him from another state.
Grubb is a 24-year veteran of the Charlotte-Mecklenburg Police Department. Trietley has been working for the department for nearly 11 years.
Monroe said every time an officer is hurt in the line of duty, people are reminded of the risks police face.
“It makes you realize how dangerous this job really is,” he said.
Police internal affairs officers will investigate the incident, standard procedure when an officer fires a weapon.