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Saturday, August 8th, 2009

Grand jury finds police not at fault in chase

By Margie Wuebker
An Auglaize County grand jury has issued no findings in a case involving a high-speed pursuit by the Minster Police Department that led to a fatal motorcycle crash.
Minster Police Chief Randy Houseworth confirmed Friday no indictments were issued in the wake of last week's grand jury review. He added all fatal accidents occurring in the county go before the grand jury.
The pursuit began at 2:58 a.m. June 7 when Minster Patrolman Chris Fetters spotted Nathan P. Thobe, 25, of Maria Stein, failing to stop for a stop sign at the intersection of West First and Cleveland streets. Thobe, who was later found to be under the influence of alcohol, attempted to outrun police and crashed near the industrial park. He was pronounced dead at Joint Township District Memorial Hospital, St. Marys.
The Wapakoneta Post of the Ohio State Highway Patrol, which was called into investigate the crash, determined Thobe was driving at least 77 miles per hour when he failed to negotiate a curve near the industrial park. The Kawasaki Ninja struck a curb ejecting Thobe a distance of 75 feet from the point of impact.
The 7-minute pursuit involved two Minster cruisers, two New Bremen cruisers and a marked vehicle from the Fort Loramie Police Department. Most of the cruisers were involved by using rolling road blocks to slow Thobe's speed, Houseworth has said.
Houseworth, who repeatedly declined to comment on the case prior to grand jury review, said he has no plans to make changes in the department's current pursuit policy.
"The grand jury found no fault on the officers' behalf," he said. "No reprimands have been issued and I am not looking into revising the pursuit policy at this point."
The department's pursuit policy says an officer may consider a pursuit when "behavior by violators or suspects clearly shows they are trying to avoid contact with or apprehension by police."
The policy also indicates a pursuit can be stopped at any point for a number of factors: creating serious danger to involved officers or the public; public safety when the duration and difficulty of the pursuit outweighs safety factors; or the identity of the suspect is known.
Houseworth has said the pursuing officer was not able to get Thobe's license number.
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