By Kelli Ameling and Cory Smith
GREENVILLE — A Marion man is in custody after leading police officers on a chase that spanned more than 12 miles early this morning, ending when he crashed his car into a tree in Greenville.
Montcalm County Sheriff’s Deputies responded to a report of a possibly intoxicated man driving a white car in the wrong lane in the Stanton areas around midnight Sunday.
Montcalm County Sheriff’s deputies soon observed a white Buick being driven erratically on Stanton Road near Lake Road.
The driver was observed to match the description given earlier and a traffic stop was initiated on M-91 near Langston.
The driver attempted to get out of the vehicle and was ordered back inside his vehicle.
He then re-entered his vehicle and fled, driving south toward Grenville at speeds ranging from 45 to 85 mph.
The man continued to drive his vehicle erratically and committed several traffic violations.
The pursuit entered the city of Greenville and included assistance from officers from the Greenville Department of Public Safety and the Michigan State Police.
The driver eventually drove onto the lawn of Baldwin Heights Elementary School and briefly stopped, placed his car in reverse and rammed the pursuing deputy’s police car.
The suspect then drove toward a Greenville Department of Public Safety officer who had exited his patrol car, nearly running him over.
The pursuit continued through the playground area of Baldwin Heights Elementary and onto Judd Street heading west where he collided with a tree on the property of the former Greenville Country Club near Marvel Drive.
Witnesses at the scene of the accident said they watched the car drive down Judd Street and crash. They said the car did not have a left front tire or headlight.
The 43-year-old driver sustained injuries and was not wearing a seat belt. He was taken to Spectrum United Memorial Hospital by Montcalm County Emergency Services and was treated for minor injuries.
“He has facial lacerations and was the (only) occupant (in the car),” Sgt. Dennis Magirl of the Greenville Department of Public Safety said at the scene.
The man is currently in custody and facing charges of fleeing and eluding, resisting and obstructing and operating while intoxicated.
“This was a really dangerous situation for the officers involved,” Undersheriff Mark Bellinger of the Montcalm County Sheriff’s office said. “It was dangerous for the mere fact that number one, it was a pursuit, and number two, the suspect attempted to run over a Greenville police officer.”
Bellinger said the chase was typical of most car chases the department encounters, with the exception of the dangers present at the end of the pursuit.
“I applaud the deputies and officers at the scene for their professionalism,” he said. “They are well trained for these situations, considering only minor injuries to the suspect, we were very fortunate and our officers did very well.”
Bellinger said it was fortunate the pursuit happened during hours of low traffic and at a time when students were not present at the school.
“We were fortunate with the time of day being at night that there was a lack of traffic,” he said. “He went through a school yard and the potential there for danger was lower than normal.”
Bellinger said two police cruisers were damaged in the pursuit.
Bellinger said the Montcalm County Prosecuting Attorney’s Office is reviewing this incident for possible charges regarding an assault on a police officer with a motor vehicle. This incident remains under investigation.