EagleHerald staff writer
MARINETTE—An unfortunate occurrence of random events unfolded Sunday, intersecting in a fateful collision the destinies of a stolen Illinois vehicle and a prominent City of Marinette community art project.
Sunday afternoon at approximately 2 p.m., following a concerned Marinette County resident’s report, notifying law enforcement of the erratic behavior of a vehicle headed eastbound on Highway 64, toward the city, officers with the Marinette Police Department (MPD) responded.
According to MPD Lt. Scott Ries, Marinette officers intercepted the vehicle as it entered city limits, pulling it over a short time later. However, during the ensuing traffic stop, the driver engaged the vehicle and fled the scene.
With MPD in pursuit, the car maneuvered through the intersection where Hall Avenue meets Marinette Avenue, proceeding to careen with forceful contact into one of the large decorative community planters that currently dot the medians and roadside up and down the city’s main thoroughfare.
Part of a community art initiative launched in 2017 by the Downtown Marinette Action Group, the hefty and elaborately planted pots come out each year around Memorial Day, along Marinette and Hall avenues adding an array of summer adornment. Tended all through the season by crews with the city’s Department of Public Works, the pots add a flowery touch to Marinette’s character for commuters traveling through the area. Adorned by local artists, the planters span the avenues at various points from Mickey-Lu Bar-B-Q to the Interstate Bridge and their artfully decorated surfaces pay tribute to various aspects of the Marinette people and way of life, often inspiring curiosity and interest from visitors and residents, alike.
The vehicular impact Sunday sent the pot’s flowers and packed soil sailing, and left a jagged gash down the side of the planter, tearing through the precision of geometric patterns meticulously applied at the tip of an artist’s paintbrush.
However, Sunday’s collision between car and pot represented only the initial moments of an incident that began in Marinette but ultimately unfolded to its conclusion over 150 miles away in Washington County, near Milwaukee.
THE REST OF THE STORY
Leaving behind the ruptured pot, the stolen vehicle continued down U.S. 41 from Marinette, traveling on the wrong side of the road and consequently hitting another vehicle. However, Ries also informed that no injuries resulted from that collision, nor was the fleeing vehicle disabled as it sped down the highway.
“Then due to the risks involved with speeds and traffic, the MPD officers terminated the chase,” Ries said. “And the vehicle continued southbound on 41.”
Over the course of about two hours, the driver managed to traverse approximately four counties before officials in the fifth, Fond du Lac County, re-engaged the pursuit at about 4:15 p.m. following two separate reports that alerted the Fond du Lac Communications Center to a reckless driver heading south on U.S. 41 near Highway 151.
According to Sgt. Logan Will, with the Fond du Lac County Sheriff’s Department, deputies succeeded in pinpointing the swerving vehicle. Despite sirens and lights, the driver failed to yield to the pursuing officers and continued for approximately 27 miles at highway speeds, crossing one last county border, into Washington County.
At that point, according to an official with the Washington County Sheriff’s Office, Fond du Lac officials notified Washington County deputies of the impending pursuit closing in on their county line. Washington County lies just south of Fond du Lac.
As the pursuit entered Washington jurisdiction, Washington deputies took the lead. They made the effective deployment of tire deflation devices (a.k.a. “stop sticks”) near County Trunk D. After rolling over the stop sticks the driver managed to continue for some distance before exiting U.S. 41 at Highway 60.
According to a Fond du Lac Sheriff Department’s press release, the vehicle sideswiped another car at that exit, causing damage, and then proceeded to veer off the roadway where it was finally disabled.
Fond du Lac authorities took the 47-year-old male suspect from Berwyn, Illinois, into custody. He faces charges of felony eluding, operating a motor vehicle without the owner’s consent, and numerous traffic citations in Fond du Lac County. Additionally, he faces criminal charges in Marinette and Washington counties.
“With the investigation that the deputies put together … they weren’t able to determine if (the suspect) was impaired,” Fond du Lac’s Sgt. Will said. “It seemed liked his behavior was pretty erratic, however, there was no impairment on board.”
The incident remains under investigation.
According to officials from the departments involved in the pursuit, the entire ordeal, from Marinette County to Washington County resulted in vehicular damage but no injuries.
For Executive Director/CEO Marinette Menominee Area Chamber of Commerce Jacqueline Boudreau that lends the most important point for which to be thankful. She saw the aftermath of the car-planter collision. She knows how much mass—and thus, stopping power—each planter possesses.
“My first thought was that I hope nobody got hurt,” Boudreau said.
However, it does not lessen the impact of a lost piece of artwork on which an artist worked hours creating and one that spent a four-year lifespan adding some colorful beautification to the downtown area. Boudreau feels for the artist.
“All the pots are awesome but that one had a lot of detail,” she said.
But every piece of art comes with a story. Some of it lies in the physical details of the piece, while other components of that story define those chaotic and sometimes intriguing intersections.
With the destruction of the pot, perhaps artists and art lovers can take solace in the following quote attributed to contemporary painter Paul Gardner.
“A painting is never finished—it simply stops in interesting places.”