Dashcams give more insight for police chase


Rob Le Cates

Members from the Charleston Fire Department and Police Department searach the car of the deceased man who drove onto oncoming traffic to cause the five-car accident that happened an the intersection of Lincoln Avenue and University Drive on Sept. 19, 2021.

Corryn Brock, Editor-in-Chief

Cordell Carter sped away from Charleston Police so fast that he disappeared out of view from a police dashcam within seconds, police records show.

The police chase involving Carter was chronicled by two police dashcam videos released to The Daily Eastern News.

The News had requested information on the investigation that led to Carter’s death and multiple injuries, through a Freedom of Information request. The Illinois State Police turned over records from its investigation of the chase, which included the Charleston Police Department videos and more than 100 pages of records.

The case was immediately turned over from CPD to ISP.

The file contained all reports, videos and audio files related to the case to do a “public integrity investigation” related to an “officer-involved death,” according to David Catlin, the Illinois State Police Freedom of Information Act officer.

Catlin said that ISP’s purpose in doing the investigation was to determine if criminal charges were needed against the police department.

“When this happens, Illinois State Police, we gather all the evidence, all the cases. They document everything, they take a copy of Charleston’s entire case that they have on their incident. From there, they go through, they do the write-up and they present it to the state’s attorney,” Catlin said.

When ISP received the case, they received everything that was on file for the wreck itself, as well as a bottle of liquor the deceased, Cordell Carter, allegedly threw out of the window while being pursued by police.

Carter’s girlfriend said other than a revoked license, she thought a reason he may have been fleeing from police was that Carter had a firearm with him.

While searching the vehicle, ISP located a Ruger P95 9mm that was stolen out of New Orleans. It is not clear how Carter obtained the gun.

The pursuit of Carter started in Mattoon where dispatchers received a call regarding an erratic driver. Mattoon Police Department officers pursued the vehicle as it went through Mattoon before calling off the chase as the vehicle drove towards Charleston.

CPD’s Officer Robert Hale and Sergeant Tony West pursued Carter in Charleston in the minutes leading up to the wreck.

Hale was the first to spot Carter when he saw Carter at the intersection of Reynolds Drive and Lincoln Avenue, according to Hale’s statement to ISP.

Hale said he saw Carter turn south onto Reynolds and turned around to pursue him, but by the time Hale turned, he could not see the vehicle.

With lights on, Hale proceeded on Reynolds, to Lovers Lane and then onto Cortland Drive where he located Carter pulled over on the side of the road. Hale approached the vehicle with his lights and sirens activated and Carter began driving away.

Hale pursued Carter as he drove from Cortland Drive to Seneca Drive before he turned onto University Drive.

Carter turned north onto University Drive directly in front of West, who was heading towards the chase to assist. West had his lights on as he was driving towards the chase and honked at Carter as he pulled onto University Drive before turning on his sirens.

Carter drove down University Drive at a high rate of speed, leading to West calling off the chase. In dashcam footage from the chase, West left his lights and sirens on as he continued down the road, turning them off after calling in a wreck to dispatchers.

West told ISP he turned his lights and sirens off after calling off the chase, saying a few seconds after turning off his lights and sirens, he saw a cloud of dust and debris.

In his statement to ISP, Hale said he thought West may have left his lights on a few more seconds after terminating the chase as a precaution while slowing down.

The CPD policy manual states that vehicle pursuits should be terminated when:

  • Distance between the pursuing officers and the fleeing vehicle(s) is so great that further pursuit would be futile or require the pursuit to continue for an unreasonable time and/or distance.
  • Pursued vehicle’s location is no longer definitely known.
  • Officer’s pursuit vehicle sustains any type of damage that renders it unsafe to drive.
  • Extended pursuits of violators for misdemeanors not involving violence or risk of serious harm (independent of the pursuit) are discouraged.
  • Hazards to uninvolved bystanders or motorists.
  • If the identity of the offender is known and it does not reasonably appear that the need for immediate capture outweighs the risks associated with continuing the pursuit, officers should strongly consider discontinuing the pursuit and apprehending the offender at a later time.
  • Directed by a supervisor.

After State’s Attorney Jesse Danley reviewed the case, he determined that “there was nothing criminal about the officer’s pursuit.”

Explaining how he viewed the seconds leading up to the seven-vehicle crash, Danley said he reviewed video from officer’s body cameras, dashcams and video from local businesses.

“The car fled from officers in Mattoon. It was located in Charleston, it actually pulled over to the side of the road at one point. And officers found it reengaged and thereafter we’re talking about 15 seconds. Officers are going from street to street. And when that car gets on (University Avenue), they realize very quickly that it’s driving very fast,” Danley said. “So as soon as that happens, (Detective Anthony West) calls out to discontinue the pursuit and then the crash happened shortly thereafter.”

Danley said he felt the officers acted “appropriately” for the situation.

“You know, it’s just it’s very, very, very quick response … I think they were cognizant of pedestrian and traffic density at all time. I watched the videos very closely,” Danley said. “I didn’t find that they endangered anyone’s lives by pursuing a vehicle.”

Danley said his goal in viewing the case was to see if proper force was used, not to investigate the specific officers involved.

Corryn Brock can be reached at 581-2812 or at [email protected].