July 23, 2013

Police audio details wild Saco car chase

A Massachusetts woman is scheduled to make a court appearance Wednesday after allegedly ramming three police cruisers in Saco.

By David Hench dhench@pressherald.com
Staff Writer

SACO — Monique Vallee, who authorities say damaged most of the city's police cruisers on the late-night shift, is scheduled to appear in court Wednesday morning via video on charges she intentionally rammed her car into three cruisers.

Monique Vallee

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This cruiser is likely a total loss after being rammed.

Courtesy of Saco Police Department

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Police on Tuesday released an audio recording of the harrowing chase as reflected in the radio traffic between Saco officers and dispatchers. 

The recording starts with a report of Vallee driving south in the northbound lanes of the Maine Turnpike and culminates with her arrest. Vallee was arrested after her car was disabled in its final collision with a cruiser. Police subdued her after shocking her twice with a Taser.

Police Chief Bradley Paul said it's remarkable that none of the officers and no civilians other than the driver were injured in the bizarre encounter, which put three 2011 Crown Victorias out of commission.

"We're down three cars but we're not down three officers, and for that I'm thankful," Paul said. "Cars, you can fix."

Police charged Vallee, 43, of Andover, Mass., with four counts of aggravated reckless conduct, three counts of assault on an officer and three counts of criminal mischief, said Deputy Chief Jeff Holland. She was taken to the York County Jail in Alfred later Monday morning.

The incident began just before 1 a.m. Monday when Maine State Police notified Saco police that a woman driving a convertible had been headed south in the northbound lanes on the Maine Turnpike and got off at Exit 36 in Saco.

Officer Donald Fiske responded, driving up the on-ramp from Route 1 to the Interstate 195 spur westbound. He encountered the convertible speeding toward him on the divided highway, Holland said.

Fiske was able to avoid a collision by swerving into the breakdown lane, and turned to follow the car. But the woman stopped, put her car in reverse and backed into the cruiser, Holland said.

The driver headed toward Old Orchard Beach, then made a U-turn and drove at Fiske, who this time swerved into the grassy median to avoid a head-on collision.

The woman then drove on I-195 toward the turnpike toll booth, reversed direction and drove at Fiske again, forcing him to swerve into the median to avoid a collision, Holland said.

The woman headed west again and abruptly turned off the highway at the Industrial Park Road on-ramp.

Fiske followed her down the ramp, but she again braked, and again slammed -- it's not clear whether she was going forward or backward -- into his cruiser, this time disabling it, Holland said.

At this point, the rest of the late-night police shift -- two officers and a supervisor -- arrived as Vallee started driving north on the turnpike in the northbound lanes, swerving from the far left to the far right.

With three cruisers in pursuit, she stopped, again reversed and backed toward the cruisers.

Officer Nicholas Stankevitz was able to maneuver out of the way, but Officer Matthew Roberts wasn't so lucky.

Vallee's convertible sideswiped Roberts' cruiser and then, as Sgt. Daniel Beaulieu pulled in front of her to box her in, she drove into his cruiser.

That maneuver totaled his cruiser but also disabled her car, Holland said.

Vallee refused to get out of her car, so the officers smashed the driver's side window and pulled her out. She fought the officers, who were unable to restrain her. They used a Taser to temporarily disable her, Holland said.

"She gets Tasered, they can't get her secured in handcuffs, she gets Tasered again," he said.

After she was finally handcuffed, she was taken by ambulance to Maine Medical Center in Portland for treatment and evaluation.

Holland said Vallee was not seriously injured and none of the officers was injured, although there were aches and pains.

"We're very lucky no other citizens were injured by this," he said. "Nobody else was involved in these rammings. We're counting our blessings at this point, for sure."

Holland said one cruiser had $12,000 in damage and was totaled, but another with $5,000 in damage is repairable. It wasn't yet known if the third cruiser, with $7,000 in damage, could be repaired, a decision that will be made by the city's insurance carrier in consultation with the police department.

The department has spare cars, Paul said, and the damage will not have an impact on public safety or the number of officers patrolling the city.

The department recently took delivery of three new cruisers. A Ford Expedition purchased with drug forfeiture money just finished getting its light bars and lettering Monday and was to be pressed into service immediately, said City Manager Richard Michaud.

Two Ford Tauruses should be ready for duty soon, in what Michaud said was fortuitous timing.

Vallee is being held on $25,000 bail and is scheduled to appear in York County Superior Court in Alfred on Sept. 12.

Holland said he does not know whether Vallee was under the influence of any illegal or legal substances. She was not charged with operating under the influence, he said.

A Monique Vallee of the same age and hometown has had driving and drug charges brought against her in her home state of Massachusetts in previous years, according to published reports.

 

David Hench can be contacted at 791-6327 or at:

dhench@mainetoday.com 

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Additional Photos

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This is one of three cruisers damaged.

Courtesy Saco Police Department

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This is the least damaged of the cruisers that were rammed.

Courtesy of Saco Police Department

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