Camera captures cruiser crash

Coitsville dash cam

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COITSVILLE, Ohio (WKBN) — For the first time since it happened more than a week ago, the public is getting its first glimpse from inside a Coitsville Township police car in the minutes before a grinding collision on Youngstown’s East side.

After having the cruiser’s dashboard camera taken by Youngstown police investigators, Coitsville officers finally retrieved their equipment earlier this week and provided local media with a copy Friday morning. The video shows not only images looking through the cruiser’s windshield, but also provides information on the cruiser’s speed, if its emergency lights and siren are activated and even if the officer is applying his brakes.

On Sept. 18, Coitsville police officer Donald Dudley pulled up behind a pair of suspected car thieves near the corner of Oak Street Extension and U.S. Route 422 on Youngstown’s East side, but almost immediately the suspects take off, leading Dudley down Lansdowne Boulevard.

The chase lasts just over a minute and the suspects Dudley is chasing are never seen in the video. At one point, he reaches 77 miles per hour, but slows down to 40 mph just before the crash.

As he crosses the intersection, the cruiser goes airborne. Seconds later, as Dudley is approaching McGuffey Road, another car pulls into the intersection and there’s a collision.

If viewed in slow motion, the video shows the traffic light is red for the officer. He’s still doing 40 mph just seconds before the impact, but the shadow of the car already can be seen just prior to the impact.

In real time, it all happened in the blink of an eye. Moments later, Dudley can be heard calling for an ambulance.

Coitsville Police Chief Michael Morris said with Youngstown taking the video for its investigation, it slowed down the search for the suspected thieves.

“Yeah, it kind of hampered our investigation into the felony that occurred in our township. We finally got it back after six days,” Morris said.

While Youngstown police said they are still looking into the crash, Morris claims YPD investigators were never able to view the video for themselves because of security software in the dash-cam equipment. Morris also said his officers have been advised by their attorney not to talk publicly about what’s on the video, so he’s not able to say whether Dudley violated the department’s pursuit policy.

The crash left the driver of the other car badly hurt as well. Renee McConnell remains in critical condition at St. Elizabeth Health Center.

The family released a statement on Friday, saying their priority is McConnell’s recovery.

“The family members of Renee McConnell wish to express their sincerest gratitude to the community for the outpouring of thoughts and prayers. Although there will come a time to address the troublesome circumstances surrounding this collision, right now the number one priority is Renee’s health and recovery. During this tremendously difficult time, her family requests privacy as Renee battles to overcome her traumatic injuries,” the statement said.

It also said the family has retained the law firm of Melewski Dodez, LLC of Canfield.

The request for privacy while McConnell recovers is a sentiment shared by police.

“That’s what we’re concerned about right now,” Morris said.

The crash happened Sept. 18 and began with a pursuit involving patrolman Donald Dudley and two men suspected of stealing a car.

Youngstown police continue to investigate the collision and are working with the Ohio State Highway Patrol accident reconstruction team.

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