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Child involved in high-speed police-pursuit crash dies

By HOLLY ZACHARIAH • Dec 11, 2018 at 9:00 PM

COLUMBUS (TNS) — One of the two children who was inside a car that crashed in northern Pickaway County while being pursued by a village police officer Sunday night at speeds of more than 110 mph has died.

Four-year-old Rojer Lemus died at Nationwide Children's Hospital on Monday, said Lt. Steven Herron, commander of the Circleville post of the state Highway Patrol.

The other child in the car, 3-year-old Caissen Cruz, remains in critical condition at Children’s.

The driver of the car, 35-year-old Yoni Cruz Martinez, of Columbus, was killed in the crash that happened about 7:45 Sunday night on Route 762 near Walker Road in Pickaway County’s Scioto Township.

Authorities have said they don't know the children's relationship to each other or to Martinez.

South Bloomfield Police Chief Kendall McCoy hasn’t returned phone calls about the pursuit and the village hasn't complied with a records request from The Columbus Dispatch seeking the incident report, dash-cam video (if it exists) and a copy of the department's pursuit policy. But an initial 9-1-1 call released by the Pickaway County Sheriff’s Office sheds a little light on how the events unfolded and radio traffic from the as-yet-publicly unnamed officer shows the pursuit topped out at speeds of 120 mph and notes the risks taken by the fleeing driver during the pursuit, which lasted about 3 1/2 minutes.

A caller told a 9-1-1 dispatcher he was following a car northbound on Route 23 (which eventually intersects with Route 762) that was driving erratically and tailgating other vehicles.

“I am on the highway, on U.S. Highway 23 and there is a guy swerving so hard he’s almost ran into a semi. He is really close to other people,” the caller said.

The caller got a license plate number, and told the dispatcher that the driver was “like right now he's currently driving in the grass” and then back up on the road, tailgating again.

The call went on for close to seven minutes as the dispatcher radioed a South Bloomfield police officer who got into position at a Sunoco gas station to intervene.

The dispatcher told the caller to flash his lights as he passed the gas station sothe officer could pull in behind the erratic driver.

As that happened, the dispatcher told the caller to back off so the officer “can take care of business.” The call ends there.

But radio traffic, also released by the sheriff's office, picks up the pursuit. The recording shows that as soon as the officer pulled in behind Martinez's vehicle on Route 23, Martinez immediately sped off.

“He's running,” the officer told the dispatcher.

The officer radioed that speeds first reached 90 mph, then 110, 116 and finally 120 mph.

Another officer — whom the patrol has said was an officer from the nearby village of Commercial Point — radioed that he was trying to get stop sticks down to slow the fleeing vehicle after Martinez turned onto Route 762 and crossed over Route 104 but was unable.

The South Bloomfield police officer reported that Martinez ran a car off the road and blew through a red light.

Then, the breathless officer radioed about the crash: “Start me a medic; start me a medic. He just (crashed). The vehicle is on fire, the vehicle is on fire.”

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