It was a stolen Salt Lake fire-truck that police chased for almost an hour Saturday morning, but it wasn't Salt Lake police doing the chasing.
Because of the department's restrictive pursuit policy, Salt Lake police terminated their official involvement in the chase within the first few minutes.Salt Lake fire officials didn't want to let someone get away with stealing their $350,000 apparatus, but they understand the decision by police to back off.
"Their policy is not to chase stolen vehicles," said Capt. Jim Hansen. Because the policy doesn't distinguish between stolen Subarus and stolen fire engines, officers ended the chase.
"Their protocol doesn't make that allowance," Hansen said. "And that's understandable."
And besides, the city got its fire truck back - with $5,000 worth of damage to it. And police got their woman - with the help of other police agencies and Gold Cross Ambulance.
The chase was terminated by city officers because it was too dangerous to chase the truck through city streets, said Salt Lake police Lt. Phil Kirk. The woman was driving the fire engine through red lights, but officers noted very little traffic, according to police reports.
"Pursuits are terminated when the immediate danger in pursuing is greater than the offense (the person is believed to have committed)," Kirk said, noting that in this case it would be drunken driving. That determination is made by the officers involved, and in this case, by the shift sergeant.
Kirk defended the decision to end the pursuit saying the argument could be made that by pursuing the stolen engine, with lights and sirens going, you force the car thief to drive faster, more recklessly and essentially escalate the incident.
But while the sergeant's order might have officially ended the chase for Salt Lake City, it didn't end it for 18 police cars from five other police agencies who aren't subject to the city's chase policy. It also didn't prevent Salt Lake police officers from participating in the arrest of the woman now charged with stealing the engine.
The Salt Lake officer who arrested the woman accused of stealing the truck participated in the chase by riding with a supervisor for Gold Cross Ambulance in a sports utility vehicle.
They followed the fire truck without lights at a distance of about three blocks the entire 56 minute pursuit.
Backing off didn't take the pressure off the woman driving the engine because most of those 18 cars were following her with lights and sirens blazing. The woman drove the fire engine from Salt Lake City to Layton and was heading back into Salt Lake County when the truck was "disabled" at 2200 N. on I-15.
It was Utah Highway Patrol officers who set up spikes on I-15 that punctured all six of the engine's tires and finally forced the driver to stop and surrender.
It was Davis County sheriff's deputies who pulled the woman behind the wheel from the truck and then restrained her with the handcuffs of the Salt Lake officer who rode with the Gold Cross supervisor.
According to a Salt Lake police report, the woman was so intoxicated she couldn't see the tip of a pen an officer placed in front of her during a sobriety test. She did refuse to take a breath test.
Shirley Jean Shay was taken to jail that morning. Wednesday she was charged with unlawful control over a motor vehicle, a third-degree felony, failure to respond to an officer's signal to stop, a third-degree felony, and driving under the influence of alcohol, a class B misdemeanor.
The pursuit, which garnered national attention, began shortly before 2:30 a.m. Officers said they were on the scene of a domestic violence call at 657 S. Redwood Road when a woman approached them saying she was "wasted" and asked police to help her find her car so she could drive home.
An officer, instead, called her a cab. She agreed to wait on the curb.
The next time that officer saw the woman, he was hanging onto the door of the fire truck ordering her to stop, and she was pushing the accelerator to the floor. The officer jumped from the truck and then hopped into the Gold Cross supervisor's vehicle at his request, a police report said.
Nearly an hour later, the two met again, this time as he arrested her for stealing rescue engine seven.
Shay said she thought the emergency workers were laughing at her, so she climbed into their $350,000, two-ton pumper truck idling nearby and drove away.
"I felt in control of the vehicle, although I didn't feel in control of my senses," she told the Associated Press.
As for fire officials, Hansen said they're not going to do anything different. They leave the keys in the trucks and the engines running because they have to for safety reasons.
"We're treating this as a one-time incident," Hansen said. "We're going to continue to trust in the public's trust for us."
By the way, rescue engine seven is getting new rear brakes, among other repairs, and should be back on the job by Friday.