Deputy injured in Douglas County chase; driver sought

Deputy injured in Douglas County chase; driver sought

TUSCOLA — Douglas County police are looking for the driver of a car who led police on a high-speed chase through northern Douglas County that resulted in a sheriff's deputy being injured.

Villa Grove Police Chief Dennis Gire said about 2:30 a.m. Sunday, Officer Todd Thomas clocked the red Pontiac, possibly a Grand Prix, going 72 mph in a 30 mph zone in Villa Grove. The car was headed west out of town on County Road 1450 N, also known as Hayes Road.

Gire said Thomas put on his lights to stop the car and it pulled over. When Thomas got out of his squad to approach, the driver sped off before Thomas made contact.

Gire said Thomas followed him a while as the car turned south. Thomas alerted other officers before ending his high-speed pursuit out of concern for his own safety.

However, Douglas County Sheriff's Deputy Nate Chaplin joined in the chase when the driver turned back to the north and then went west along Douglas County 1550 N, which is the county line road with Champaign County.

As he pursued the speeding vehicle, Chaplin lost control of his squad car and rolled it on that road, about a quarter mile east of U.S. 45.

Gire said it was Thomas who found Chaplin in the upside down car and helped him out. The squad car was destroyed.

"You look at it and wonder how he lived," said Douglas County Chief Deputy Peter Buckley.

Chaplin was taken to Sarah Bush Lincoln Health Center near Mattoon for treatment of cuts. He was not seriously injured, Buckley said, and remained off work Monday.

Gire said police learned that the car that sped off from police registered to a person in Crawford County.

Police are still investigating.

Anyone with information on the driver is asked to call the Villa Grove Police Department at 217-832-2511 or the Douglas County Sheriff's Office at 217-253-3511.

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