HANOVER TOWNSHIP — A Lake County police officer and his K-9 were injured Thursday in a bi-state police pursuit in which two men ran from a stolen Mercedes-Benz, police said.
Officer Doug Parker and his K-9 Rocky, a Dutch shepherd, were hit by another Lake County sheriff's squad car as they exited from the passenger side of the squad in which they were riding, police said.
At an afternoon news conference, Lake County Sheriff Oscar Martinez Jr. said the chase began about 8:30 a.m. near 117th Street and Calumet Avenue in Cedar Lake after officers noticed a 2006 silver Mercedes-Benz with Ohio license plates.
A check of the plates indicated the vehicle had been reported stolen out of Forest Park, Illinois, at about 3 a.m. Thursday, Martinez said.
A sheriff's officer attempted to stop the Mercedes in the area of West 133rd and Calumet avenues, but the suspects — a 26-year-old Markham man and a 25-year-old Homewood man — sped off, police said.
The suspect driver, at one point, entered a construction zone and nearly struck a construction worker as they fled eastbound on 133rd, Martinez said.
The pursuit then proceeded northbound onto U.S. 41 through Cedar Lake and St. John to 109th, where the suspects then headed westbound to Calumet.
At that time, officers requested Eagle 1, the Lake County Sheriff's Department's helicopter, and dispatch began communicating with Illinois agencies anticipating the suspects would soon cross the Indiana-Illinois border, Martinez said.
Officers chased the vehicle to the area of 159th Street and Van Dam Road in South Holland, near Interstate 394, according to Illinois State Police. At that point, the suspects exited the vehicle and fled on foot, police said. Later, police found 13 catalytic converters and a sawzall in the Mercedes.
The K-9 suffered a broken paw as a result of the collision, Martinez said. Parker, a 12-year veteran with the department, suffered minor scratches and bruises.
The K-9 was first stabilized at Glenwood Village Pet Hospital and then later taken by sheriff's helicopter to a veterinary specialist at Purdue University Lafayette. It's believed the dog will survive, Martinez said.
The suspects continued to run, entering Midwest Transit Equipment but were chased out by employees. They then went across the street to Goodyear, where they stole a Goodyear pickup truck.
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The chase continued through multiple communities. Illinois State Police and Chicago police officers located the pickup truck and chased it on Interstate 94 and Interstate 57, before the pursuit ended at 93rd and May streets in Chicago.
Two men were taken into custody after officers were able to box the car in at 93rd and May streets, authorities said.
Throughout the chase, the Lake County sheriff's helicopter assisted in tracking the suspects, Martinez said.
The entire chase lasted about an hour and a half, reaching speeds up to about 80 miles per hour with Chicago police and other agencies blocking off intersections as the pursuit continued, Martinez said.
"Every precaution was taken to keep the safety of the citizens in mind. At no time did we feel that any public citizen was in danger. Because we had the air unit airborne and had a constant eyeball on the suspects, we were able to back off a bit and monitor the pursuit. The air unit did a tremendous job ... keeping a constant, second-by-second location of the vehicle," Martinez said at the news conference.
The injuries to the officer and K-9 will become a teaching moment for his department, Martinez said.
Martinez said at the news conference his deputies typically operate with a one-man patrol unit. During the chase, however, the squad car had a second officer and a K-9, as well, he said. That detail should have been communicated to the patrol shift at the time, he said.
"The officer of the approaching squad didn't expect anyone to exit the passenger side of the vehicle," he said. "It took him by surprise. It's something we will be reviewing as a department."
Martinez said Illinois State Police is handling the Illinois side of the investigation and the review of the injuries suffered by the K-9 and the Lake County officer.
It's unclear when Parker and his K-9 will be able to return to work.
The suspects were being held by the Chicago Police Department, pending charges in Illinois and Indiana. Martinez and Illinois State Police said their identities would be released after booking by the Chicago Police Department.
No weapons were found despite initial reports the suspects may have been armed, Martinez said.