A Racine County deputy made a life-saving choice to let a hit-and-run driver escape on foot after a vehicle pursuit ended in a collision on Sunday, Jan. 14.
A Sheriff’s deputy in an unmarked car was on patrol on Wisconsin on Highway 31 at Newman Road, Mount Pleasant, late Sunday morning when she saw a driver in a Toyota Sequoia SUV behaving suspiciously, The Journal Times reported.
A check revealed that the vehicle didn’t match the correct license plate that was attached; officers later determined that the vehicle had been stolen from neighboring Milwaukee County.
The deputy “activated the lights and sirens on her unmarked squad and attempted to execute a traffic stop,” said the criminal complaint filed against the driver, reported FOX6.
Sheriff Christopher Schmaling explained at a Jan. 15 press conference, “As soon as she turned her lights on, the vehicle accelerated at a high rate of speed.”
The driver of the stolen car then tried to turn into the parking lot of Kohl’s Department Store on Washington Ave.
The deputy slowed, but the Toyota driver continued at high speed. As the Toyota approached the Festival Foods store, the driver lost control and ran over two pedestrians and crashed into a pole, officers told The Journal Times.
Deputy Abandons Chase to Save Lives
The deputy parked her vehicle, ran to the two injured people and began administering first aid.
The victims, later identified by the Racine County Sheriff’s Department as Cheryl L. Coopman, 47, and Jeffery J. Coopman, 53, of Union Grove, had suffered horrendous injuries. The deputy had to apply two tourniquets to Cheryl Coopman to stop her bleeding.
Passers-by assisted with the first aid; one man donated his belt, while another gave the deputy a bungee cord.
“They had some serious, serious injuries,” Sheriff Schmaling said, according to The Journal Times. “These injuries, I believe, would have been catastrophic had there not been immediate medical attention applied.”
“There was blood loss, a significant amount.”
Cheryl Coopman was airlifted by Flight for Life to Froedert Memorial Hospital in Wauwatosa. She eventually lost her arm and leg, but survived the horrific incident.
Jeffery Coopman suffered a broken leg and pelvis. He was taken by ambulance to Ascension All Saints Hospital and later transferred to Froedtert hospital.
Both were in critical but stable condition, The Journal Times reported.
Jessica Harp, niece to the injured couple, started a GoFundMe page to raise funds for her aunt and uncle’s medical expenses.
The driver of the stolen SUV fled the scene, leaving a passenger behind in the car. Mount Pleasant police and Racine sheriff’s deputies later found the driver hiding in some weeds.
The driver was identified as Isaiah D. Degroot, 17, of Racine county. The passenger, who has not been identified, is reportedly cooperating with law enforcement.
According to The Journal Times, Degroot admitted to the arresting officers that he was the one behind the wheel of the stolen SUV.
Police searching the stolen SUV found two Mason jars full of marijuana and a Taurus 9mm handgun that had been stolen in Racine.
Degroot was charged with 27 criminal counts including two counts of hit-and-run, great bodily harm; two counts of knowingly operating a motor vehicle without a valid license, causing great bodily harm; two counts of first-degree reckless injury; operating a motor vehicle without owner’s consent; 18 counts of bail jumping; and possession with intent to deliver or manufacture tetrahydrocannabinol (THC).
Degroot was out on bond from an arrest on Oct. 30 on charges of discharging a firearm while driving a vehicle and two counts of first-degree recklessly endangering safety as a party to a crime.
According to arrest reports, Degroot had cut off another driver in traffic, chased him and shot at the vehicle as the driver tried to escape. Degroot posted a $25,000 bond on Nov.13 and was set free pending trial.
His bail was set at $300,000 cash for the Jan 14 incident. He remains in custody as of Jan. 16.
A preliminary hearing is scheduled for Jan. 24.