WILMINGTON — An SUV crashed into the entrance of the CVS store downtown and minutes later that was followed by the driver leading a police foot chase up North Walnut Street just after 4 p.m. Wednesday.
Four people, including the driver, were taken to Clinton Memorial Hospital with reported injuries.
The most seriously injured was a female who was struck by the vehicle inside the foyer, said Wilmington Police Sgt. Ron Fithen at the scene. She had suffered a “pretty visible serious injury,” he said.
Two small children also are reported injured, one of whom had a visible laceration, the sergeant said.
Two other individuals also received injuries, and were treated at the scene.
No CVS employees were physically injured, said Fithen.
Shaken CVS employees were gathering themselves in the parking lot as Wilmington EMS and police officers worked to stabilize the scene right after the crash occurred, only half a block away from the fire station.
According to Fithen, the only occupants of the SUV were the driver as well as two small dogs. The dogs were being attended to at the scene by EMS personnel as alarms blared from inside the store.
Fithen said law enforcement has witness statements that the SUV driver went through the intersection of Locust and Walnut Streets at a very excessive speed.
The Kia Sorrento SUV, which was reportedly southbound on North Walnut Street, struck a utility pole at the corner of North Walnut and East Main Streets in front of the Clinton County Prosecutor’s Office, snapping the pole in two. The vehicle then struck a fire hydrant on the CVS property, went through the shrubs near the Main Street road frontage of CVS, went all the way through the parking lot and crashed into the CVS foyer, coming to a stop on its side entirely within the walls of the store.
For a while the man operating the vehicle was stuck inside the vehicle, and first responders started the procedure to extricate him.
“At the time they extricated him he somehow got out of the sun roof and fled on foot,” said Fithen.
The shirtless man ran out of the CVS parking lot, taking off on foot across Main Street and up Walnut with two Wilmington police officers in close pursuit on foot. The man could be seen running up the hill toward Locust Street.
He was captured at the corner of Columbus and Walnut Streets by law enforcement officers with the assistance of the fire department, stated the sergeant.
It is Fithen’s understanding that a Taser was deployed during the pursuit, but he did not immediately know whether the man was hit by a barbed dart from the stun gun.
After he was caught, the man was put into custody, handcuffed and taken to a life squad for his injuries, said Fithen.
The cause of the crash, Fithen said, was not immediately known — that is, whether the driver was drug- or alcohol-impaired or whether there was a medical issue.
Police won’t know until investigative work at the hospital is finished, he added.
First responders were taking care of the injured first, and once law enforcement knows the driver is clear of any injuries, they will definitely look at the criminal side of it then, said the sergeant at the scene.
Other than the SUV, there are three other vehicles damaged in the incident that Fithen is aware of. A silver car parked in the front row not far from the store entrance was struck on the passenger side and was unoccupied at the time.
Another vehicle, parked on Walnut Street about two-thirds of the block down from the Main Street corner, was hit by a fire hydrant that the SUV struck at the corner and dislodged and which somehow kept going down most of the block, basically intact.
Fithen said the CVS store, which of course includes a pharmacy, will be secured for the night hours.
A witness told the News Journal that he saw the entire incident in front of him as he was on his way to work.
In addition to Wilmington police and Wilmington Fire & EMS, other first responders spotted at the scene include Clinton-Warren Joint Fire District & EMS, the Clinton County Sheriff’s Office, and the Ohio State Highway Patrol.
The highway patrol is going to perform measurements at the site to determine whether the SUV was airborne, which at least one eye-witness believes is the case.
Reach Gary Huffenberger at 937-556-5768.