A Pennsylvania couple allegedly stole two police cruisers this morning and led officers on a wild ride, sparking a high speed chase that started in South Jersey and ended in Northern Liberties.
"It just was bizarre," Deputy Commissioner Richard Ross said. "In my time on this job – which is almost a quarter of a century – I've never heard of an instance where two police cars were stolen in the same incident."
Investigators said an officer in Camden, N.J. exited his marked patrol car shortly before 10 a.m. while conducting an unrelated vehicle stop in front of police headquarters.
That's when 23-year-old Shayna Sykes and fiancee Blake Bills, 24, of Macungie, Pa., allegedly jumped into the officer's vehicle and mowed him down. The officer suffered injuries to his lower extremities, but is in good condition.
Authorities said the couple led police on a chase over the Benjamin Franklin Bridge and into North Philadelphia.
They allegedly struck several cars near 7th Street and Lehigh Avenue and narrowly missed a pedestrian, who was evaluated for minor injuries after jumping out of the car's path.
“The Philadelphia Police Department became involved at 7th and Norris streets,” Lt. John Stanford said this afternoon. “They were able to assist Camden police in stopping the marked vehicle and getting the people into custody.”
Though Bills was apprehended, Sykes struggled with officers and was allegedly able to commandeer a second patrol car – this time, one belonging to Philadelphia police.
After leading police on yet another chase, Sykes eventually came to a stop on the 1100 block of Hope Street in Northern Liberties and was taken into custody.
They are both charged with resisting arrest, DUI, eluding police, risking a catastrophe, and related offenses.
Philadelphia and Camden Police officials have launched a joint investigation into the crime with the Camden County Prosecutor's Office
Ross said he expects the couple will extradited back to New Jersey in the next few days to face prosecution.
Police said the two suspects were both registered at the same address on the 300 block of Oxford Road in Macungie, where they apparently lived with the 7-month-old child they shared.
The child's grandmother, who also lives at the location, recently filed a missing persons report because the couple left the baby in her care and failed to return home, according to Ross.
Ross also said investigators believe illegal substances may have played a role in the bizarre crime, which he described as "bold," "reckless" and "absolutely crazy."
"You best bet a toxicology will be done and we do have every reason to believe that drugs were involved," he said.
Though he wasn't aware of any drugs found during today's arrests, Ross said he couldn't think of another explanation for the events.
"Given what happened and how crazy it is, you put two and two together," he said.
Ross said officers are supposed to remove their keys from the ignition during traffic stops. "We could harp on that part, but the biggest piece for us is that no one was hurt," he said.
He said he's pleased with the officers' conduct and pointed out they often need to make split-second decisions while on the job.
"You can Monday morning quarterback all day long, but at that particular time, I think it's safe to say that the officers, the first decision they had to make was the safety of their fellow officers," he said.
"I would imagine if you were to poll police departments across the country, you probably would not find very many where they turn their car off during a car stop."