Two men led Wauwatosa and Milwaukee police on a wild chase that started just before midnight Wednesday with a traffic violation, swept through the hills and curves of the Washington Highlands and ended with officers out most of the night combing a wide swath of eastern Wauwatosa for them, without success.
However, one of them left a calling card — a Wisconsin state ID.
According to police reports, the episode began with an officer parked in the soon-to-be BelAir Cantina lot, monitoring the corner of North 68th Street and West North Avenue for traffic light violations.
At 11:49 p.m. Wednesday, a car going east on North Avenue stopped at the light, then proceeded into the intersection when it turned green. But suddenly a blue Plymouth Neon swept past it at about 40 mph through the left turn lane.
The officer followed, hit his emergency lights and passed the first car to get behind the offender. The driver kept going and turned south on North 62nd Street. The officer pursued and hit his siren, but the Neon accelerated.
The pursuit continued south and into the Washington Highlands neighborhood, onto Two Tree Lane, then Washington Circle and finally onto Martha Washington Drive.
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The driver lost control, went over the curb and into the neighborhood commons, going about 50 yards across the lawn before stopping. Two men jumped out and ran. The only thing the officer could report was that one was wearing a blue hoodie or hooded coat.
The search moves south
The Neon proved to have been stolen in West Allis. Officers swept the Highlands and surrounding areas, and one soon spotted two men, one wearing a blue hoodie, walking south on 62nd Street, just short of West State Street.
The report says the officer approached within 30 feet before the two saw him and bolted, running east on State. The officer gave chase on foot, and the two suspects split up.
The officer followed one of them across State and radioed that the other had just run into The Reserve apartment complex. The officer was right behind his man when the suspect rushed into a thicket of brush bordering the railroad right-of-way.
The officer followed, but in the dark, the man seemed to have vanished. Returning to The Reserve to join the search there, the officer found a blue hooded sweatshirt discarded on the ground.
Over the river and through the woods ... repeat
Meanwhile, another officer had hoped to cut off the first subject but was moments late. Shining his flashlight into the woods along the north bank of the Menomonee River, he saw something reflective and called that in.
In seconds, another officer on the south side of the river, on Honey Creek Parkway, saw the reflections, too, and then saw their suspect race up from the river bank, across the parkway and into Jacobus Park near the playground.
A contingent of Wauwatosa officers, reinforced by six Milwaukee police officers with a search dog, combed the park without success.
At 2:30 a.m., officers were still out looking throughout neighborhoods on both sides of the river, when — back at Highlands — a pair of extremely wet blue pants was found behind a home in the 6200 block of Milwaukee Avenue.
In one pocket were a pair of dice, a lighter and a bus pass. In the other pocket was a Wisconsin picture ID card belonging to a 19-year-old Milwaukee man.
Honest, sir, I lost my ID, and another car thief must have found it
Police believe that having once splashed across the river and found himself in the midst of a swarm of officers, the suspect somehow eluded them all in the dark, recrossed the river and, for whatever reason, returned to the area of the crash before ditching his trousers.
Police reports did not say so, but online criminal court records show that the owner of the ID card was convicted in May of auto theft and had another count dismissed but read into the record. In June he had yet another count of car theft and one of bail jumping read into his court record.
Exactly one week ago, last Friday, he was sentenced on the May conviction to six months in jail, but the jail time was stayed and he was put on six months probation.