Two arrested after woman hoping to help police tries to ram vehicle during high-speed chase

Posted at 2:53 PM, Nov 15, 2015
and last updated 2015-11-16 20:49:12-05

WEST VALLEY CITY, Utah -- Police pursuing a suspect at high speeds were interrupted in West Valley City early Sunday morning when a woman who took it upon herself to help the officers attempted to ram the suspect's vehicle.

The civilian cut off pursuing officers to make her attempt at a PIT maneuver, and both she and the suspect who was fleeing police have been booked into the Salt Lake County Jail.

A West Valley City police officer first spotted the suspect at 1 a.m. traveling at 80 mph in the area of 4700 South and 5600 West. During the officer’s pursuit, it was confirmed the truck the suspect was driving was stolen, said Lt. Jeff Conger, spokesman for West Valley City police.

As the officer requested assistance, Conger said, the driver of the truck continued to drive at a high rate of speed, turned off his headlights and drove on the opposite side of road.

Andre Martinez mugshotThe driver, identified as Andre Cruz Martinez, ended up driving into an apartment complex in the area of 4000 West and 3500 South. The officer set up spike strips at the exits.

“The driver saw the spikes and veered toward one of the officers and the officer jumped out of the way,” Conger said.

Video submitted by the Facebook group "Underworld of Utah" appears to show the suspect fleeing in the truck after the tires were spiked, as sparks fly from some of the wheels as it drives by. The video was shot around 1:15 a.m. in the area of 3500 South and 6400 West, see the video above for that footage.

Martinez hit a large rock but was able to continuing driving. Conger said the pursuit continued for about 20 minutes with speeds at 70 mph. Martinez drove on 4000 West out to 7200 West then back east to 3200 West.

“Right before the [end of the chase], a certain citizen thought that the police needed a little help and she got in the way of the officers, with their lights and sirens on, tried to ram the suspect vehicle, was unsuccessful,” Conger said. "So, shortly thereafter the suspect gave up. The  citizen was stopped also in that same area."

According to a statement of probable cause, the woman attempted a PIT maneuver on the suspect vehicle, cutting off the officer who was giving chase.

After failing to stop the suspect vehicle, the woman, identified as Rachelle J. Fernandez, continued in the police chase from the back of the following officers and failed to yield to pursuing officers' emergency lights and sirens.

"Rachelle interfered in the apprehension of the driver in the suspect vehicle," according to the probable cause statement.

The suspect was caught and arrested a short time later when vehicle he was driving failed to continue. The probable cause statement indicates Fernandez responded to the scene where Martinez was apprehended. She was also detained at that time.

"Rachelle's explanation for the interference was that she was trying to help officers and stop the suspect vehicle," the probable cause statement indicates.

rachelle fernandez mugshotRachelle J. Fernandez, was booked into the Salt Lake County Jail on misdemeanor charges of interfering with an arresting officer and failure to stop for an emergency vehicle.

“You know, sometimes people try to do the right thing, and it’s just wrong,” Conger said of Fernandez's decision to get involved. “And in this situation, maybe she tried, maybe her intent was good, but it was just wrong. Police had their lights and sirens on, you need to follow the law, pull to the right, yield so that we can do our job safely… she put herself in danger. She put our officers in danger.”

According to a statement of probable cause, Martinez denied knowing the vehicle he was driving was stolen.

He admitted to driving in an unsafe manner, but according to the PC statement he told police: "...that 'someone' had a 'gun' pointed at him in the vehicle and was telling him to drive in that manner and flee from police. Martinez was observed [as] the sole driver and occupant in the vehicle on numerous occasions during the incident."

Police said Martinez was booked into the Salt Lake County Jail and faces charges of attempted homicide on a police officer, possession of a stolen vehicle, fleeing in a vehicle, and other charges relating to outstanding warrants.