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Baby critical, multiple people injured after suspected drunk driver refuses to stop for E. Cleveland PD

A UH employee witnessed the crash and transported the baby from the car to the ER
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Posted at 6:49 PM, Feb 24, 2023

CLEVELAND — East Cleveland Police were trying to get a suspected drunk driver off of the road when that driver veered into the opposite lane of traffic and crashed into two cars, critically injuring an 11-month old baby inside one of the cars, police said.

On Wednesday evening at around 9:00 p.m., East Cleveland received a call from a concerned woman who was hit by a man driving erratically. She, too, had a baby in her car.

“This man just hit me and my two-year-old son. He drunk and he driving on the wrong side of the f****** street,” she said. “They need to come on, this man is about to f****** kill people out here. We going towards Euclid, towards University Hospitals.”

East Cleveland Police Chief Brian Gerhard said one of his officers located the white Ford SUV the woman described and attempted to stop the driver.

“When the officer got behind the vehicle, the vehicle just refused to stop. They activated their lights, siren and tried to initiate a traffic stop,” said Chief Gerhard. “The male ignored the officer. He just kept going. He decided to drive on the sidewalk. The officer continued to follow him. He kept traveling westbound on Euclid Avenue.”

Chief Gerhard said the driver was driving so erratically, he was bumping into other cars on the roadway.

“We are in the opposite lane of traffic. He is driving multiple cars off the road, signal 19, maybe a signal 20,” said the officer over the radio as they were following the driver.

A signal 19 is code for motor vehicle accident, and a signal 20 is the code for motor vehicle accident with injuries.

East Cleveland Police continued to pursue the car, but the suspected drunk driver veered into the opposite lane on Euclid Ave, near UH Drive, and hit two cars sitting at the red light.

One of those cars was occupied by a mother and her 11-month-old baby.

Darron Smith is a patient transporter at University Hospitals. He had just finished his shift and witnessed the entire crash.

“I looked up and see East Cleveland Police, you could see this white Expedition and he’s speeding erratically. He jumped the curb and almost hit me. I jumped back,” said Smith. “He guns it, goes to the far left lane, crosses over and gets into oncoming traffic.”

Smith said he couldn’t believe what he saw but then, while police were working to apprehend the erratic driver, something told him to go closer to the crash.

He heard the mother, in one of the cars, cry out for help.

“She was badly injured and she’s like, ‘Somebody help me! Please help me! My baby is in the car,’” he said. “I yelled at the officers, I told them my complete name. I told them where I worked at and I told them I’m just trying to get the baby to safety, that’s all I’m trying to do.”

An East Cleveland officer helped Smith get to the baby and opened the window to the car. Smith then took the infant to University Hospitals' ER.

“Having a wife and kids, if something was to happen to them I would hope someone would do something,” said Smith. “Do the right thing. All the stuff we see on T.V. and social media, we see someone recording rather than helping them.”

Body camera obtained by News 5 shows the aftermath of the crash. You can hear the mother’s heartbreaking cries for her baby and the suspected drunk driver telling police he had been drinking.

Chief Gerhard said police found a bottle of vodka in the suspect’s car.

He also noted this was not a high-speed chase initiated by police, adding he has ordered his officers to stop chases unless they’re absolutely necessary.

“I'm not going to jeopardize the public. I'm not going to jeopardize my officers by going after somebody for some minor traffic violation,” he said. “In this case, we had a woman who called in very frantic ‘This man just hit me. I have a child in my car. You guys need to get him.’”

And in this case, it was necessary, Gerhard said.

“I'm not going to have my officer disregard the pursuit because who would have known what could happen? I mean, this guy could have caused even more damage than what he already did,” said Gerhard.

The driver is facing two counts of aggravated vehicular assault and failure to stop and failure to stop by order of a police officer.

The baby is still in critical condition at University Hospitals.

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