Shoplifting suspect leads police on high-speed drama

SANDUSKY What began as a shoplifting call for Perkins Police on Monday afternoon ended with several
Sandusky Register Staff
May 24, 2010



What began as a shoplifting call for Perkins Police on Monday afternoon ended with several damaged police cruisers, a little girl nearly being hit by a car, and a crash that sent three people to the hospital.

All of this took place because two people, a Sandusky man and woman, apparently decided to try to outrun police.

Richard Thames, 53, 1200 block of E. Larchmont Drive, received 10 charges, nine of which were felonies, for the incident and is being held in Erie County Jail on $110,000 bond.

Veronica Price, 46, 2000 block of Foxborough Circle, was charged with felony robbery and is being held on $20,000 bond.

The situation started at 4:50 p.m. Monday when Thames and Price reportedly tried to steal $837 worth of clothes from J.C. Penney at the Sandusky Mall.

The duo was confronted by the store's loss prevention personnel and a fight ensued. Police responded to the scene, but not before the two suspects fled, driving west on Perkins Avenue in a Scion XB that was stolen prior to the incident.

At least three Perkins police cruisers chased after the two suspects.

Police officials said Thames turned south on U.S. 250, west on Woodlawn Avenue and south on Columbus Avenue.

Perkins Police officials debated whether or not to continue the chase at times due to the danger it might pose to others traveling along busy streets.

"There were points when the officers said they were going to call (the chase) off," said Perkins Police Lt. Al Matthews, who was on the scene at Ohio 4 where the suspects eventually crashed their car. "But when he turned down less traveled streets, they decided to continue."

The chase continued onto a cul-de-sac on Cedarbrook Lane where the suspects' vehicle almost struck a little girl riding her bike.

A Perkins officer almost cornered Thames in the cul-de-sac, but realized that would endanger the little girl, so he moved his cruiser to clear the way for Thames to escape, according to Perkins police officials.

"(The) officer tried to order him out of the car at gunpoint," Matthews said. "He did a U-turn and the chase continued."

The suspects ended up on Ohio 4 heading south with Perkins police not far behind.

Thames allegedly hit a Perkins officer's cruiser, which was stationed just north of the intersection at Ohio 2. He then tried to turn onto Ohio 2 heading east, but lost control and collided with a car, a Honda Civic, driven by a woman driving in the opposite direction.

The woman was later identified as Ashley Smith, 26, of Sandusky.

The collision caused Scion to roll over and come to a rest on its roof.

The chase lasted a total of 14 minutes, from 4:50 - 5:04 p.m.

Thames was reportedly screaming and crying when police surrounded the car, but Matthews said he didn't appear to have any major injuries. Police said Thames smelled of alcohol at the scene of the accident.

"He was screaming like he was dying, thinking we'd have sympathy for him," Matthews said.

A Perkins fire department crew had to use extracting tools to get the suspects out of the mangled vehicle.

Price reportedly kicked at and argued with the crew as they tried to help her.

Both suspects and Smith were transported to Firelands Regional Medical Center with what appeared to be minor injuries.

All three people were released from the hospital later that evening.

Price and Thames were transported to the Erie County Jail.

Matthews said Perkins officers do sometimes call off police chases when they feel the public is in danger, however the department received reports that these two suspects were driving recklessly and endangering people before the chase even began.

"They'd already run a couple of vehicles off the road so they needed to be stopped," Matthews said.

The decision whether or not to cut off a police chase rests in the hands of the officers on the scene, he said.

"Well trained officers can make those decisions," he said. "Anytime traffic is heavy or there's weather or other factors, they know to call that off."

Matthews said suspects who run from police rarely get away.

"Some do, very seldom," he said. "I think a lot of them want to take that chance. They think this is the one time they're going to get away. A lot of them I think like the thrill."

Thames was charged with four counts of felonious assault, one count of felonious assault to a police officer and one count of failure to comply with the order of a police officer, which is also a felony.

He was also served a felony warrant by Sandusky police for the stolen vehicle, and was issued additional charges of reckless operation and driving under suspension.