Police pursue gate-crashers
December 9, 2010
FORT SILL, Okla.-- If not for the actions of the Fort Sill Police Department, hundreds of Fort Sill residents who attended the holiday tree lighting Dec. 2 could have been injured.
According to Bob Pirtle, post provost marshal, police pursued a man fleeing from officers until he got off post.
The pursuit was limited to Sheridan Road and not the side roads, from where many of the attendees were leaving the holiday ceremony. Pirtle said the incident has been reviewed internally by his office and all actions during the pursuit by Fort Sill police have been found to be within all police guidelines.
At about 7:20 p.m. Dec. 2, a silver Mazda sped away from Sheridan Road Gate.
For unknown reasons, the driver, Brandon Irwin, 27, of Walters, a convicted felon, sped north on Sheridan Road hitting speeds of about 70 mph. That's where post patrolmen began their pursuit.
Irwin turned west onto Wilson Road and turned around. That's when the passenger, Ray Garza of Lawton, jumped out. According to Pirtle, Irwin swerved toward a police vehicle to try and hit it, forcing the Fort Sill police officer to take evasive action.
The pursuit returned to Sheridan Road where officers observed Irwin driving without his headlights on, weaving through traffic and running red lights. Irwin's car spun out two different times on Sheridan Road because of his excessive speed and manuevering.
Two more Fort Sill police vehicles joined the pursuit and tried to box Irwin in as they approached Key Gate in excess of 80 mph.
After trying to ram a police car again while traveling east in the westbound lanes on Sheridan Road, Irwin passed Key Gate, drove under I-44 and turned right heading south on the northbound exit ramp.
Pirtle said Fort Sill police officers followed cautiously up the exit ramp, against oncoming traffic, but by the time they reached the end of the ramp, Irwin's vehicle had been hit head-on by a 18-wheeler.
When the first Fort Sill officer arrived at the crash scene and got to Irwin, the officer could not detect any vital signs.
Pirtle said the pursuit lasted less than four minutes and involved three Fort Sill police vehicles and officers who "followed established pursuit guidelines."
The passenger, Garza, was questioned by a Fort Sill CID agent and gave a statement. The Oklahoma Highway Patrol declined the opportunity to interview Garza and he was released.