Car theft and police chase prompts school lockdown

OFallon PDO’FALLON – A dangerous situation unfolded Thursday morning as O’Fallon police dealt with a car theft and two different car chases with possibly armed suspects.

According to Captain Jim Cavins the police department received word at 9:16 a.m. that the Swansea Police were looking for three black males in a silver Audi attempting to break into vehicles. The Fairview Heights Police obtained the license plate number of the Audi which revealed it was reported stolen in an “armed vehicular hijacking” in St. Louis.

At 10:15 a.m. the O’Fallon PD received a call about an SUV pulling a trailer leaving Schnucks on East Highway 50, saying that the doors to the trailer were open. Almost simultaneously, O’Fallon Police received another phone call from an individual reporting his SUV and pull behind box trailer stolen from the Schnuck’s lot. While police tracked down the stolen SUV, the caller provided information that she believed a second vehicle was involved, describing it as a silver Audi with Missouri registration.

O’Fallon Officers caught up with the stolen SUV with trailer traveling southbound on Scott-Troy Road approaching Highway 50. The SUV fled eastbound on Highway 50 towards Lebanon, where O’Fallon officers terminated their chase. Lebanon Police would locate the SUV traveling southbound on Rte 4 and resumed the chase. As the SUV entered westbound I-64, the trailer came off the hitch and crashed on the shoulder of the westbound entrance ramp.

The SUV re-entered O’Fallon via the Greenmount Road interchange and then went westbound on Regency Park Drive. At this point, the SUV crashed into the Jack Schmitt Chevrolet security gate and two black males fled on foot from the crash. Shortly thereafter they were taken into custody.

While this incident was unfolding, an O’Fallon Police Officer located the Audi traveling westbound in the 200 block of East Highway 50. As he attempted to stop the Audi, it fled northbound on Lincoln Avenue. For public safety reasons, the O’Fallon Officer did not pursue the Audi. East St. Louis Police later located the Audi and took four black males into custody.

The two suspects taken into custody by O’Fallon were both from East St. Louis and were ages 11 and 15.  On Friday, the 15 year old suspect was charged in St. Clair County Juvenile court with the following offenses:

• One count “Aggravated Unlawful Possession of a Stolen Motor Vehicle.” (Class 1 felony)

• One count “Unlawful Possession of a Stolen Motor Vehicle.” (Class 2 felony)

• Two counts “Aggravated Fleeing and Attempting to Elude Police.” (Class 4 felony)

He remains detained at the St. Clair County Juvenile Detention Center.  The case against the 11 year old remained pending at our press time.

Because this incident involved an unknown number of possibly armed suspects, local O’Fallon schools were placed on lockdown until the situation was deemed secured.

District 90 Superintendent Carrie Hruby said there are two levels of lockdown.

“A soft lock down is initiated if there is a potential threat outside the building. Doors are locked and visitors are not allowed into the building. Students are kept inside but are free to move about their day as usual.  During a hard lock down students would be kept inside a classroom or secured area until the all clear is given. Doors to the building are also locked and no one is allowed into or out of the school,” Hruby explained.

On Thursday, the schools were placed on soft lock down.

Hruby said in either lock down case the district communicates with parents through their pre-arranged notification system, allowing the district to send thousands of phone calls and emails within minutes.

Hruby said she appreciated the forethought of the O’Fallon PD to keep the area children safe.

“We appreciate that the O’Fallon Police Department showed extra precaution and immediately informed us of the need to lock down our schools.  I would also like to thank our administrators and staff for their swift response in securing students safely in the buildings,” Hruby said.