Police Chase Woman OJ-Style
She Tried to “Crash” Museum of Rockies Wine Tasting, Then Fled
BY PAT HILL
A slow-speed police chase reminiscent of OJ and his white Bronco ended up stopping traffic on Main Street in Bozeman for several hours on a Saturday night in July.
Just after dark on July 15, observers on Willson Avenue in Bozeman witnessed a blue Chevy Lumina headed north on that street with four police vehicles with lights flashing on its tail. The low speed of the entourage and absence of sirens did not indicate a chase, making the string of vehicles a curious sight. Within a minute, however, two more police vehicles came screaming north on Willson at over 50 miles per hour with lights and sirens blazing; a glance north from where I was gathered with friends for a belated birthday party indicated something a little more than curious was then taking place at the intersection of Willson and Main Street.
A short walk brought me to the scene of the now-ended chase. Two police vehicles had the Chevy Lumina blocked off at either side halfway into Main Street, and the hot smell of smoke and rubber filled the air. More than a dozen law enforcement officers were on the scene, and a dark-haired woman lie face-down on the street outside the driver's-side door of the Lumina with her hands secured behind her back, as hundreds of people gathered. I asked some of the onlookers what had taken place at the intersection. Reports varied, but it became clear the woman face-down in the street was the driver of the Lumina. The smoky-rubbery smell was the result of her attempt to drive her car through the police cars that blocked her; reports on the scene indicated one officer was injured as he was nearly pinned between vehicles by the woman's action, and another officer had to break out the driver's side window in order to subdue the driver and turn off the vehicle. I stayed on the scene until the woman was loaded into an ambulance, and finally the ambulance drove off at a leisurely pace, sans lights and siren, even stopping for a red light, which made me wonder about the condition of the woman in the ambulance.
News about the incident was sketchy at best on Sunday morning. There were reports of a drug bust, probably due to the fact that a Drug Task Force SUV was involved in the chase (and was one of the vehicles that blocked the Lumina on Main Street). Another report surfaced that a person had been shot on Main Street the previous evening, which fit neatly into the slow departure and speed of the ambulance bearing the driver of the Lumina. Local news organizations did not report on the chase on Sunday, but by Monday morning the story was being reported upon and details of the incident were becoming clearer. And the facts regarding the chase were every bit as intriguing as any of the innuendo.
The driver of the Chevy Lumina, Patricia Lynn Cordes, 60, of Bozeman, was booked into the Gallatin County Jail at about 5:30 a.m. on Sunday. She is charged with two counts of criminal endangerment, one count of driving under the influence, and one count of fleeing from or eluding a police officer. Bond was set at $25,000.
Cordes was in the parking lot of the Museum of the Rockies when the incident began. Though some news reports indicated Cordes attended a wine-tasting event held that Saturday evening at the Museum, a staff member who witnessed the parking lot incident and prefers to remain anonymous told the Pioneer that Cordes was attempting to “crash” the event, and showed up at the Museum in an intoxicated state. Montana State University officers on the scene tried to persuade the woman to utilize the services of a limousine present at the event to take home any impaired wine-tasters, but Cordes refused to take the officers' advice, and eventually fled the parking lot after driving around two police vehicles attempting to block her exit. The slow-speed chase down Willson Avenue then ensued.
Before Cordes stopped her vehicle at the red light on Main Street, officers took advantage of the situation and blocked her vehicle, hoping for a quick end to the incident. But as officers approached her vehicle at the red light, Cordes stepped on the accelerator and crashed into the two police vehicles blocking her way. After officers finally broke the driver's side window in an attempt to get control of the situation, Cordes again accelerated the Lumina, nearly pinning an officer between vehicles and almost running over another officer's foot. Cordes continued her escape attempt, and a thick cloud of smoke formed as she continued to try to push her way past the police vehicles.
Officers finally gained entrance into the vehicle and were able to arrest Cordes, but Main Street remained closed for several hours while officers continued investi-gating the incident. Three officers suffered cuts, scrapes and bruises, and all were exposed to the woman's blood without adequate protection, according to MSU Deputy Police Chief Mark LaChapelle. Cordes remained in the Gallatin County Jail as of July 23.