A man riding a bike with no headlight or reflectors late at night may be unsafe but also seemed a little suspicious to a Winnebago police officer.
Local authorities have been investigating recent incidents of spray paint vandalism, so officer Jacob Pettit decided he should talk with the man.
Pettit turned his squad car around and that’s when Michael Pepin of Fairmont noticed the officer and began to pedal faster.
A pursuit of more than 10 minutes that covered a four-block area began on Third Street Southwest around 11:11 p.m. on July 1.
Pettit followed Pepin from Fourth Avenue Southwest to First Avenue Southwest with his squad car’s emergency lights and siren activated.
“I do believe he handled the situation properly,” says Police Chief Eric Olson.
During a four-minute portion of the squad car’s cam video, Pettit tells Pepin, “Stop the bike. Use your head. What are you thinking?”
Pepin says he refused to stop because he didn’t think he did anything wrong. He tells Pettit that he has had a bad experience with police and thought he was going to get beat up.
At speeds of 8 to 12 mph the officer follows Pepin down streets, through the Garden Court parking lot, alleys and yards, and between two different houses four times.
Olson was asked whether the pursuit should have been terminated because it could have posed a safety issue to the public.
“I believe that the incident was at low speeds and officer Pettit was aware of his surroundings,” says Olson.
Under the police department’s vehicle pursuit policy, the purpose and scope states:
Officers must not forget that the immediate apprehension of a suspect is generally not more important than the safety of the public and pursuing officers.
In the policy, one of the factors to consider when to end a pursuit —- extended pursuits of violators for misdemeanors not involving violence or risk of serious harm (independent of the pursuit) are discouraged.
Pepin was never charged in connection with the vandalism incidents, but was charged with fleeing a peace officer. Pettit was able to apprehend him with the assistance of two other men.
He was convicted of a misdemeanor on Sept. 22, sentenced to 12 days in jail and given 12 days credit for time served. The judge also waived any fines and surcharges.