UTICA — A press release issued by the Utica Police Department outlines that the officers involved in a police pursuit of an assault suspect on Sept. 2, followed state and departmental procedures.
The Utica Police Department has released a report on the fatal crash on Sept. 2 after an altercation at the Utica-Granville football game.
Spencer Lorenza, 17, Johnstown, was a suspect in an assault on a student after the Utica-Granville football game on Sept. 2. According to the report, when pointed out to police, Lorenza fled in his truck with a passenger, Hannah Gattrell, 15, Newark, who was described as Lorenza’s girlfriend.
The 2.1-mile police pursuit resulted in Lorenza’s truck running off the road and hitting a tree. Gattrell was pronounced dead at the scene and Lorenza was taken to Grant Medical Center in Columbus. He has since been released.
In the police report, the officers involved in the investigation and vehicle pursuit are not identified. Four Utica police officers were hired by Utica High School to handle security at the game. There was one officer on duty to cover the village that night.
The report states that an officer on duty at the game was advised of the assault and Lorenza was pointed out to him. As the unnamed officer approached, the report states Lorenza fled on foot, got into his truck and drove off with Gattrell as a passenger.
The report further states that two other unnamed officers were headed to the scene. It is not stated in the report if these were officers on duty in the village and if they had been called to the scene to assist. One officer activated his lights and siren to initiate a traffic stop. The truck did not stop and continued on its way. The police report states the officer initiating the traffic stop was not aware of the identity of the suspect nor did he ever get close enough to get a license plate number, even though average pursuit speeds did not go over 30 miles per hour.
The police report states an internal investigation was completed on the incident and that it absolves the Utica Police Department from any liability in the way the chase was handled. It said the unnamed officers involved in the pursuit acted within the laws of the state of Ohio and the official procedures of the Utica Police Department in handling a vehicle pursuit. It stated there was no reason for the pursuing officers to call off the pursuit and that officers acted properly in that situation.
Utica Police Chief Robert Curtis told the News this morning he would not be releasing any names of officers involved until the investigation by the Ohio State Highway Patrol was completed. He indicated that report could be released sometime today.
The Utica Police Department incident report states officers Jerry Smith, William Kofod and Kevin Wolfe were involved in the incident but does not specify the roles they played.
“The complete accident report (by the OSHP) is supposed to be completed today, as I understand it,” Curtis said. “Then they will be sending in their paperwork. They are investigating the traffic [accident] ... the incident itself.”
As far as the pursuit, Curtis said the statement in the report that the pursuit averaged about 30 mph was misleading.
“What it says is average,” Curtis said. “That doesn’t mean they weren’t doing 60 miles per hour at some point. If you read it, it says ‘average speed.’”
Curtis confirmed the pursuing officers did use their siren and lights when attempting to make a traffic stop on the truck and that officers were never close enough to get a license number. The report says the pursuing officers picked up the chase after the truck left the area of the football field. He did not know how fast Lorenza’s truck was traveling when it hit the tree.
The decision to conduct an internal investigation rather than have it conducted by a third party was made solely by the police department.
“The biggest thing is we didn’t feel it was necessary at this time,” Curtis said referring to a possible third party investigation.
Efforts to contact Lorenza or his family were unsuccessful.