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5 Mo. Police Officers in Auto-Theft Task Force Struck by Drunk Driver

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March 29, 2023 A Lake Saint Louis police officer was critically injured, and two were seriously hurt when they were struck while standing on the highway by a cruiser that was hit by a drunken driver.

By Kim Bell Source St. Louis Post-Dispatch Distributed by Tribune Content Agency, LLC.

MARYLAND HEIGHTS, MO— Five police officers on an auto-theft task force were hit by a suspected drunken driver early Wednesday on Interstate 70 in Maryland Heights, authorities said.

One of the officers, from Lake Saint Louis, was critically injured. Two from Lake Saint Louis were seriously hurt. And two officers from the St. Charles County Police Department were treated for moderate injuries and released.

They were hit about 1:40 a.m. Wednesday on eastbound I-70, just west of Interstate 270, as they waited for a tow truck after a suspected car thief crashed in a chase.

All five were part of a regional Criminal Interdiction Task Force, said Cpl. Barry Bayles of the St. Charles County Police Department. Bayles said the task force used to an auto theft task force but has expanded duties now.

After chasing a suspected car thief who crashed, the officers had used their patrol cars to block the far two left lanes of the highway. They were blocking the crash site and waiting for a tow truck to remove the wreckage. Their vehicle lights were flashing, said Cpl. Logan Bolton of the Missouri Highway Patrol.

A 2014 Jeep Cherokee was heading east in the second lane from the left. Its driver “eventually noticed the cars and tried to swerve to the right,” but the Jeep hit one of the Lake Saint Louis police cars, Bolton said.

That patrol car spun around, hitting three Lake Saint Louis officers who were standing on the highway, Bolton said. Two county officers from St. Charles County police were inside a police car when it was struck.

The Jeep’s driver, a 31-year-old man from O’Fallon, Mo., was arrested on suspicion of DWI, driving with a suspended license, child endangerment and possession of fentanyl. The Post-Dispatch is not identifying the driver because he is not yet charged.

A 2-year-old girl was riding in the Jeep. The child had minor injuries and was taken to St. Louis Children’s Hospital. She was in a child safety seat, the patrol said.

A police dog was also injured and is being cared for at a local veterinarian’s office.

The Highway Patrol identified three injured Lake Saint Louis officers as Nathan R. Livingston, 26; Kyle Case, 27; and Benjamin Fischer, 34. Bolton said one of the three was critically hurt but the patrol’s crash report didn’t specify which one.

The officers from the St. Charles County Police Department are Jacob L. Garner, 31; and Peter C. Welegala, 34.

The suspected car thief whose crash started the chain of events Wednesday ran from the scene but was later arrested, Bolton said.

In January 2022, a deputy from St. Charles County was run over by an SUV and seriously hurt after police with St. Charles County’s multi-jurisdictional auto theft task force stopped a GMC Denali for “casing” the area near Interstate 70 and Fifth Street. The deputy had come to the traffic stop, on a business parking lot off of Fifth Street, to help police transport a prisoner.

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