Suspect Flees JPD, Crashes Into Pair of SJPD Squad Cars

By Jeremy Coumbes on October 26, 2023 at 7:13pm

One person was taken to the hospital and two police squad cars are out of commission after a brief police chase over the mid-day today.

According to preliminary details by Jacksonville Police Chief Adam Mefford, West Central Joint Dispatchers began receiving calls of a reckless driver from complainants in the area of both East College and East State Streets around noon Thursday. One caller indicated to dispatchers that the vehicle had been in a minor accident.

Responding Jacksonville Police Officers went to the area and located a blue SUV that fit the description. Chief Mefford says officers then witnessed the vehicle run over a stop sign and drive through the boulevard. Officers attempted a traffic stop and Mefford says the vehicle stopped and the lone male occupant got out of the vehicle and yelled something unintelligible toward the officer before getting back into the vehicle and taking off. The suspect then fled the scene recklessly at high rates of speed running off the road several more times.

Mefford says Jacksonville Police began a short pursuit for approximately two blocks. The vehicle turned onto South Main Street where it struck a South Jacksonville Patrol car and then turned back onto East Michigan Avenue where it struck another South Jacksonville squad car. All three vehicles were disabled in the incident.

Mefford says officers then ordered the suspect to get out of the SUV. He eventually opened the door but was reaching back into the vehicle for something under the seat and continued to refuse to listen to officer commands.

Mefford says the officers on scene believed the suspect was reaching for a weapon and fired less lethal munitions consisting of both a taser and beanbags to stop the suspect and subdue him.

45-year-old Jeff Smith of Canton, Illinois was eventually taken into custody by police. Upon further investigation, police found a weapon inside the vehicle. Mefford did not disclose what type of weapon it was but confirmed that it was not a firearm.

Smith was taken by ambulance to Jacksonville Memorial Hospital for undisclosed injuries and the South Jacksonville officer later went by private vehicle to the hospital. The officer went out of caution due the the severity of the crash and the airbags deploying.

Mefford says preliminary charges are expected to be filed by the Jacksonville Police Department against Smith for reckless driving, leaving the scene of an accident, and resisting a police officer.

Charges are pending by both the Illinois State Police and the South Jacksonville Police Department. The Illinois State Police were later called in to handle the traffic crash investigation.

Mefford says the criminal investigation is still in the early stages as officers were combing the area of the chase for more possible damage late into the day Thursday.

More information is expected to be released by the South Jacksonville Police Department and Illinois State Police at a later time.

UPDATE 10/27 AT 2pm: Smith is currently being held at the Morgan County Jail. He was initially cited for two counts of aggravated battery to a peace officer, three counts of aggravated fleeing or eluding police, two counts of resisting a peace officer, reckless driving, avoiding a traffic control device, improper lane usage, failure to reduce speed to avoid a collision, leaving the scene/failure to report a traffic crash with property damage, and two counts of criminal damage to state-supported property.

Smith was formally charged with aggravated battery to a peace officer (Class 2 Felony) and aggravated battery via use of a deadly weapon (Class 3 Felony) this afternoon by the Morgan County State’s Attorney’s Office.

According to a preliminary report from the Illinois State Police this afternoon, Smith’s SUV was northbound on South Main Street, approaching East Michigan Avenue while being pursued by three Jacksonville Police Department squad cars. A South Jacksonville Police squad car was approaching northbound on South Main Street at Michigan Avenue, when it pulled into the path of Smith’s SUV with its emergency lights activated in an attempt to end the pursuit. Smith’s SUV was said to have been at a far enough distance away to brake and avoid a collision. However, shortly before reaching the South Jacksonville squad car, Smith’s SUV swerved and side-swiped the squad car. Smith’s SUV then crossed opposite lanes of traffic, driving through the Dairy Queen parking lot at the intersection of Main & Michigan, to continue eastbound on East Michigan Avenue. Smith’s SUV then directly collided head on with another South Jacksonville Police squad car, terminating the pursuit.