An Edgemont woman was arrested Friday on charges of going the wrong way on Interstate 90 after police were pressed to use a special pursuit tactic.
Marguerite Martin, 51, faces charges of aggravated eluding and driving on the wrong side of the road in an incident that involved several law enforcement agencies, according to the Pennington County Sheriff’s Office.
A Box Elder police officer was the first to respond to a countywide dispatch around 4:42 a.m. that said a vehicle was going west in the eastbound lanes on I-90 near New Underwood.
The officer tried to stop her, but Martin continued west, so Box Elder police called the sheriff’s office for assistance. She was driving a 1989 GMC Suburban, Box Elder police said.
Sheriff’s deputies laid out road spikes in the Box Elder area, but Martin kept going despite having damaged tires.
Meanwhile, the South Dakota Highway Patrol and the Rapid City Police Department closed down a portion of the interstate between Box Elder and Rapid City following a call from the sheriff’s office, said Deputy and Patrol Lt. Dustin Morrison.
To get the Suburban to stop, the sheriff’s office's shift supervisor authorized the use of a technique called Tactical Vehicle Intervention, also known as the PIT maneuver, Morrison said. Using this tactic, a patrol vehicle “taps” the fleeing vehicle's rear quarter panel with its front fender, causing it to spin to a stop.
The Suburban came to a halt in the Box Elder area, and Martin was arrested at 5:05 a.m. She had been driving 20 mph to 80 mph, Morrison said, and traveled about 15 miles in the wrong direction.
Nobody was hurt in the incident, the sheriff's office said.
There was no initial indication Martin was under the influence of alcohol or drugs, though medical responders believed she had a mental health issue, according to a sheriff's deputy report obtained from the county courthouse.
Martin was detained at the Pennington County Jail and is awaiting her first court appearance.
The TVI technique is used by Pennington County sheriff’s deputies only once or twice a year, Morrison said, and the decision to use it depends on factors such as the fleeing vehicle’s speed, weather conditions and the severity of the suspect’s crime.
“The totality of the circumstances is what we would operate under,” he said.
All certified law enforcement officers in the state are trained in pursuit driving, but not everyone chooses to learn and use TVI, said Box Elder Police Chief Jason Dubbs, adding that his department does not. Whether a department does depends on its policies, procedures and philosophies, he said.
The sheriff’s office has about 30 personnel trained in TVI, which requires a day's classroom and practical training, said Morrison. Qualified personnel need to get recertified every two years, he added.
State law allows police to drive in the wrong direction as part of their job, such as in a chase, Morrison said.
A key factor in dealing with incidents such as Martin's is keeping the lines of communication open, said Tony Mangan, spokesman for the state Department of Public Safety.
Communication helps determine whether roads should be closed or whether a pursuit should be called off in the interest of public safety. It’s also crucial to supervisors’ ability to decide on the course of action and, if more than one agency is involved, which agency should be responsible for which steps.