On Sept. 17 at approximately 1:30 p.m., a male was seen driving a white four-door passenger car go through a stop light at and estimated speed of 70 mph at Grand and Main in Bozeman, nearly striking a Bozeman Fire Department truck. Several hundred people were on downtown sidewalks and streets, with several of them pointing and yelling as the vehicle passed them.
A police officer saw the vehicle at Rouse and Main going east at speeds between 70 and 90 mph, in an area where the normal speed limit is 25. The driver, later identified as 21-year-old Belgrade resident Joe Myhren II, continued to drive eastbound increasing speeds to nearly 100 mph. An officer began to follow with his top lights and siren on, and Myhren ignored the attempts to stop, eventually turning back toward town.
Several officers began to use public announcement systems to clear the streets and sidewalks, concerned for the safety of the downtown citizens. Myhren came back through the downtown street at a very high speed. Officer Paul St. Aubyn threw spike strips out onto the street, designed to deflate the tires of the vehicle. The vehicle right side tires were punctured, but Myhren continued going west through town, ignoring the police vehicle lights and siren, continuing at speeds of approximately 100 mph and going through several red lights.
Myrhen continued driving to the west onto Huffine Lane, swerving back and forth across the road and continuing at speeds of 80-100 mph. He continued past Four-corners onto Norris Road, with tire debris, metal shards and sparks from the vehicle dragging on the pavement. At mile post 12, Myhren lost control of the vehicle and slid onto the side of the road.
When officers attempted to direct Myrhen from the vehicle he was observed talking on the phone and laughing. After several minutes he got out of the vehicle and was placed under arrest.
Myrhen had minor injuries from the crash and was treated and is being held at the Gallatin County Detention Center. He is currently charged with the crimes of Criminal Endangerment (a felony) and four misdemeanor crimes; Eluding a Peace officer, Driving under the Influence of Alcohol, Unauthorized Use of a Motor Vehicle and not have a valid Driver’s License. Myrhen will appear in Justice Court on Monday, Sept. 19.
This initial driving and pursuit involved nearly 28 miles of very dangerous driving. The safety of this driver, along with several hundred pedestrians, other drivers and law enforcement officials were put at serious risk of injuries or death.
With this pursuit and any decision to pursue a vehicle at high speeds, public safety is the foremost consideration for Bozeman police, and officers assessed this throughout the entire event.
In addition to Bozeman police, this incident involved response and assistance from the Gallatin County Sheriff’s Office, Montana Highway Patrol, Ennis Ambulance Service, AMR Ambulance Service and Gallatin County 9-1-1 Dispatchers. The fact that this pursuit resulted in minimal injuries or damage to property can be attributed to their training and the manner in which these professionals are able to work effectively together in a highly stressful and risky incident.
– Lieutenant Rich McLane, Bozeman police