A reported gas drive-off led to a fatal car accident in Sibley County on Sunday afternoon.
Eric C. Roberts, of Waconia, was fatally injured when his car rolled during a police chase. The accident occurred at County Road 8 and 375th Avenue, about five miles west of Le Sueur.
According to the State Patrol, the 26-year-old Roberts was identified as being involved in a gas theft from the Cenex Convenience store in Arlington. Arlington Police Officer Scott Bennett, who was driving a marked squad car, located the suspect, who was driving a Ford Taurus, but Roberts did not pull over.
A pursuit began, according to the State Patrol. During the pursuit, contact occurred between the Arlington Police squad car and the fleeing vehicle. After the contact, Roberts lost control of his vehicle and it rolled. Roberts, who was not wearing a seatbelt, was ejected and fatally injured, the State Patrol reported. Bennett was not injured.
Investigators are still trying to determine how the two cars collided. It is also unknown if Roberts did something to cause the collision or if he had other reasons for fleeing police.
Roberts’ car was a total loss. The squad car sustained moderate damage, according to the State Patrol.
Every department and every office has a pursuit policy, explained Sibley County Sheriff Bruce Ponath. It is required by the State’s POST Board, he explained. The reasons to chase are “wide open,” but Ponath said there are several factors to consider when starting and continuing a chase.
Bennett, who has been employed with the Arlington Police Department 21 years, has been placed on paid administrative leave, according to Arlington City Administrator Matt Jaunich. That is standard for a critical incident like this, Jaunich explained.
Assisting at the scene were Arlington Fire/Rescue, Arlington Ambulance, Life Link Air Care. Assisting agencies were Arlington Police Department, Henderson Police Department, and the Sibley County Sheriff’s Office.