The Fort Oglethorpe Police Department is still trying to figure out how one of its patrol cars caught fire shortly after other units were involved in a high-speed chase.
According to Chief Mike Helton, a patrol vehicle did catch fire Saturday night, Oct. 28 following a chase down Battlefield Parkway that ended in LaFayette — but not a patrol car that was involved in the chase incident.
"One of our officers — not in the chase — went down there to assist and the car started smoking," Helton said. "At first there was just some smoke coming from the vehicle. The fire department came to the scene and they thought it went out. A little while later, the officer looks over and the car is fully engulfed in flames. It started from underneath the hood, and from the best we can tell, we think it was transmission fluid dripping on something hot on the engine.".
Luckily, no one was injured during the fire.
Helton says the vehicle was a 2010 Ford Crown Victoria. He added that the officer was able to recover a few items from the vehicle before the flames got too big, but that the majority of the equipment in the car was lost.
"The mobile radio, siren, light bars, video recording system...anything mounted in there we couldn't get out," Helton said. "The vehicle was serviced in September after an officer reported that the transmission was slipping, the vehicle had about 93,400 miles on it. It (the car) had its share of mechanical problems, but when you drive them that much, things are bound to happen. The fire could have just as easily happened in the Chick-Fil-A parking lot or somewhere."
As for the chase, Helton says it occurred around 7:40 p.m. when officers noticed a vehicle traveling on Battlefield Parkway with no tag on it.
"The officer got out and walked toward the vehicle, at which time the offender took off and into the opposing lane of traffic," Helton explained. "He struck the median and then made the mistake of going to Cloud Springs Road where other officers were on the lookout for the vehicle."
The chase went across U.S. 27, into Chickamauga Battlefield Park, and eventually into LaFayette where the suspect, 40-year-old Tommie Lewis Dean of Chattanooga, Tenn., was arrested by LaFayette police.
Helton says Dean faces multiple charges in Fort Oglethorpe, including fleeing or attempting to elude police, reckless driving, improper u-turn, and several other traffic charges.