John Mefford
John Mefford
A 36-year-old Jefferson County man has been charged with auto theft and reckless driving after leading police Sunday on a chase from downtown Madison to the hilltop.

Madison Police Officer Dylan Barnes had just been notified concerning a stolen tan Ford Expedition in the area of West Street and Main Street at 4:59 p.m. when he observed a vehicle matching that description northbound on Michigan Road.

Barnes saw a white male wearing a gray tank top driving and a female in the passenger seat and turned his patrol vehicle around to try to catch up to the SUV. Barnes said he quickly made it to the intersection of State Street and Michigan Road, but the vehicle was nowhere to be found. Believing the driver must have turned onto a side street, Barnes went south on Michigan Road and then west onto Hillcrest Drive where he once again saw the tan SUV traveling east toward him on Hillcrest.

Barnes immediately turned around. The vehicle began to slow but then quickly accelerated to the intersection of Hillcrest and Michigan Road with Barnes confirming that the SUV was in fact a Ford Expedition and had stickers on its back window matching a description of the stolen vehicle.

The SUV turned north onto Michigan Road and quickly accelerated. Barnes activated his emergency lights and sirens and notified the dispatch and other officers that the SUV was fleeing north on Michigan Road with him in pursuit.

As the SUV approached the intersection of State Road and Michigan Road it did not slow down, turning into the oncoming lane to pass vehicles stopped at the stop sign in the northbound lane. The SUV continued north through the intersection with Madison Police Officer Adam Guzman joining the pursuit as the lead pursuit vehicle.

The SUV then approached the intersection of Green Road and Michigan Road at a high rate of speed once again without slowing down. The vehicle entered into the oncoming lane to pass vehicles that were stopped at the stop sign and continued north. Soon after, while approaching the highly congested intersection of Clifty Drive and Michigan Road, the SUV entered the intersection at a high rate of speed — with the northbound light being red — and narrowly avoided a collision with another vehicle.

The SUV continued north on Michigan Road with Madison Police Officer Mike Watson joining the pursuit.

As the vehicle approached Presidential Estates the driver attempted to make a hard right turn onto Taft Drive but was unable to navigate the corner because of his high rate of speed. The vehicle jumped the curb and continued northeast driving through the grass at Presidential and onto Eisenhower Drive.

The vehicle then jumped the curb and sidewalk near several apartments and entered the grass/yards at Presidential — still at a high rate of speed — before coming to an abrupt stop in front of an Eisenhower Drive apartment.

Barnes observed the driver of the SUV exit the vehicle and flee east on foot toward Kennedy Drive.

Barnes turned his patrol vehicle onto Taft Drive and entered into the grassy area in between Kennedy Drive and Eisenhower Drive where he witnessed the male run toward the back of a Kennedy Drive apartment.

Barnes thought the man was entering an apartment or attempting to break in and drove toward him. He saw the man return from behind a privacy fence as he approached — with emergency lights still activated — but the man ran past the passenger side door of Barnes’ police vehicle and began fleeing south, still on foot.

At that point Barnes exited his vehicle and began pursuing on foot while yelling for the man to stop.

After a short foot pursuit, Barnes caught up to the man and again told him to stop and before the man fell to the ground where he began saying he was sorry. Barnes placed the man in hand restraints to finally end the chase.

The man, identified by an Indiana identification card as John Mefford, 36, was placed in a patrol car without further incident. He was charged with auto theft, receiving stolen property, resisting law enforcement by fleeing in a vehicle, resisting law enforcement by fleeing on foot and reckless driving and taken to the Jefferson County Jail.

Officers also located the female passenger of the SUV, Rachel Demaree, who was still in the vehicle. They spoke with her at the scene and she was released.