By Jeff Lehr
The Joplin Police Department has completed a review of four vehicle pursuits in early April and determined that none of them entailed any policy violations by police officers.
The chases of suspects on April 2, April 5, April 7 and April 8 were examined by the department’s pursuit review board, according to Sgt. Matt Stewart of the department’s internal-affairs division. Stewart said no issues arose with any of the four pursuits.
“They were all within policy,” he said.
The four early April pursuits came on the heels of a high-profile pursuit of suspect Daniel Hylton on March 31. Hylton led police, Jasper County sheriff’s deputies and an off-duty Missouri State Highway Patrol trooper on a chase across Joplin from Range Line Road to Maiden Lane and back east through central Joplin neighborhoods.
Four possible policy violations were cited by the pursuit review board in the Hylton chase. Three officers eventually were referred to the department’s disciplinary review board, and undisclosed disciplinary measures were meted out. One of the possible violations was determined not to have been a violation of the policy that existed at the time of the pursuit.
The violations during the Hylton pursuit concerned an officer who was not directly involved in the chase traveling at a high rate of speed past Joplin High School during the lunch hour; another officer passing a pursuit vehicle without first obtaining permission; and a third officer who continued to drive in an emergency manner after other units lost sight of the suspect and ended the chase.
Chases of stolen vehicles April 5 and April 7 resulted in the arrests of Lonnie S. Tilton Jr., 32, and Matthew K. Putnam, 34.
The pursuit of another stolen vehicle April 8 ended with the vehicle crashing near the Redings Mill Bridge, and a police car blowing a tire and slamming into a tree. A woman driving the suspect vehicle fled the crash scene on foot. The driver is believed to have been Beth A. Martin, 32, of Joplin, who was discovered drowned in Shoal Creek three days later.
Stewart revealed for the first time Tuesday that police believe Martin also was the driver of the vehicle in the April 2 pursuit. The Jasper County Drug Task Force requested patrol officers to stop the vehicle. The pursuit that ensued was ended because of safety concerns while the suspect was northbound on St. Louis Avenue.
Stewart said police believe that was Martin because she was the driver behind the wheel when the vehicle was stopped later that night by sheriff’s deputies.
Since a spate of five high-speed pursuits March 31 through April 8, Joplin police have engaged in two more vehicle chases, on April 16 and April 30. The total for the year now is 14.
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