(SUN TIMES MEDIA WIRE) - A Michigan man had his 7-month-old son with him when he stole two squad cars Wednesday afternoon and led police on a chase that ended when he was spotted by a helicopter running through the woods in northwest Indiana, police said.
Stacey Groves, 26, of Benton Harbor, Michigan, has been charged with auto theft, residential entry, resisting with a vehicle and child endangering, according to a statement from the Porter County sheriff’s office. He also faces misdemeanor charges of resisting, criminal mischief and leaving the scene of a property damage crash.
Sheriff’s officers were notified about noon that an unmarked Hobart Police Department squad car, a black Dodge Charger, was stolen during a traffic stop on the Indiana Toll Road near the Michigan City Toll Plaza, police said.
An Indiana State Police trooper who was at the scene of the traffic stop gave chase as Groves, who had his son in the vehicle with him, sped away westbound on the Toll Road in the stolen squad car, police said. But the trooper eventually lost sight of the vehicle as it was swerving through traffic and driving on the shoulder.
Police believe Groves later exited the Toll Road, drove through a cattle fence, then a field, and then abandoned the squad car on County Road 475 East just south of County Road 1050 North in Chesterton.
He took the infant with him to a nearby home, forced his way into the house and handed his son to the homeowner while asking for help, police said. During the incident, someone in the home called 911, as did a neighbor, who reported the unmarked squad car discarded in the roadway.
The Porter County sheriff’s office responded and one officer entered the house, while a second officer was arriving at the scene, police said. While the second officer was getting his rifle out of his trunk, he heard the first officer yelling commands. The second officer also ran into the house, but Groves jumped out of a second-story window, then stole a marked Porter County squad car and sped away through the woods nearby.
Groves abandoned that squad car about 400 yards into the woods and, while the sheriff’s officers chased him, the Lake County Sheriff’s Department dispatched a helicopter, Eagle 1, police said.
Eagle 1 spotted Groves on foot in the wooded area near Greening Road and County Road 1050 North, police said. He was thought to be surrendering and a co-pilot took him into custody without incident.
The child was released to his mother, police said.
Jackson Elementary School in Valparaiso and Liberty Elementary School in Chesterton were both placed on “lockout” during the incident, police said.
Groves, who had an active warrant through Michigan and possible charges pending in Hobart, was taken to the Porter County Jail, where he was ordered held on a $5,000 cash bond, authorities said.