WEST VALLEY CITY, Utah -- Hero or vigilante, it depends who you ask regarding a West Valley City police chase that ended when an Iraq War veteran decided to take matters into her own hands and ultimately got arrested.
For more than 20 minutes, police chased a stolen red Nissan truck around the city in the early hours of Sunday morning. According to police, the suspect reached speeds of 80 miles per hour, at one point turning off the headlights, driving on the opposite side of the road, and nearly hitting an officer.
That’s when Rachelle Fernandez stepped in, or you could say, drove in.
”I just saw like sparks and stuff, ‘oh my gosh they are chasing this guy,’” Fernandez said. “Pure reaction, I put two and two together, and I felt like I have to do something.”
Fernandez unsuccessfully attempted to ram the stolen vehicle with her own truck at the intersection of 3200 West and 3500 South.
“I’m just tired of standing on the sidelines, I just wanted to help," she said. "I feel if you can help somebody instead of standing back and watching it and filming it you should."
Fernandez points to her time in combat, serving in Iraq as a member of the Marines, as the reason why she reacted like she did.
“I feel that’s what they teach you: If you can help, if you can be a part of the solution, you should,” Fernandez said. “I thought it kind of helped because 30 seconds later the chase was over.”
West Valley City Police arrested 26-year-old Andre Cruz Martinez, the suspect in the stolen truck. He faces a number of charges, including attempted homicide on a police officer and possession of a stolen vehicle.
As for Fernandez, police are not giving her credit for helping with the arrest, in fact, it was quite the opposite, as she was also arrested.
“Sometimes people try to do the right thing and it’s just wrong,” said Lt. Jeff Conger of the West Valley City Police Department. “She put herself in danger, she put our officers in danger also, so luckily she didn’t injure herself. She didn’t injure any of us.”
Fernandez faces two misdemeanor charges of interfering with an arrest and failure to yield to an emergency vehicle. She said she isn’t about to apologize for what she did.
“I stand by my decision, I stand by what I did," she said. "I don’t care what anybody says: If you feel you can help in any way, you should."