Dash Cam Video Released, Police Cleared in Iowa State University Chase & Shooting
By Vanessa Miller, Reporter
AMES, Iowa -- An officer was justified in using deadly force this week during a high-speed chase that ended on the Iowa State University campus, authorities announced Thursday.
The Story County Attorney's Office has determined that the suspect driver – identified as Tyler Comstock, 19, of Boone – acted with willful disregard for the safety of others as he drove a stolen truck at a high rate of speed through red lights and then onto campus.
By contrast, officers pursuing Comstock "proceeded with care," reducing their speeds through intersections and backing off when supervisors suggested doing so, Ames police Cmdr. Geoff Huff said during a news conference Thursday.
"At the point when a supervisor made the comment to back off, the officer had already backed off and reduced his speed," he said.
Officers continued following the truck with lights and sirens as a warning to other drivers and pedestrians, according to Huff.
"(Comstock) had not slowed down at all," Huff said. "We had."
The pursuing officers – Ames officer Adam McPherson and an ISU officer – tried several times to stop Comstock by activating lights and sirens, by ramming his truck and by giving verbal commands.
"The suspect had every opportunity to stop the truck and comply with officers' lawful commands, and he chose not to," Huff said.
At the end of the pursuit, according to Huff, officers "were out of options with two disabled squad cars and a suspect still attempting to harm the officers and posing a real risk to others."
McPherson fired six shots into the truck "to stop the threat," according to Huff. Two of those shots hit Comstock, according to an autopsy report.
He was taken to Mary Greeley Medical Center, where he was pronounced dead.
During Thursday's news conference, authorities played two dashboard camera videos for reporters. Both showed the stolen truck that Comstock was driving speeding through town and intersections – at one point backing up into the pursuing officer's squad car.
Supervisors, during the incident, advised McPherson to "back off," according to a dispatch recording from the incident. Footage from McPherson's dashboard camera indicates he did slow down, losing sight of him at one point.
Comstock eventually left the road and started driving on a campus lawn, near the university's Campanile. The incident occurred while classes were in session, so few pedestrians were in the area, Huff said.
When asked how fast Comstock was going, Huff said, "It's hard to say how fast he was going because we were some ways back. Too fast."
McPherson remains on paid administrative leave, according to Huff, and there is no time table for when he might return to duty.
The pursuit began at 10:17 a.m. Monday when Ames police received a report of a stolen vehicle from a man who said his son had become upset and taken his pickup truck and trailer. According to the dispatch recording, the father and son were working together.
"The son got mad at his dad and took off with the truck," the dispatcher reported.
McPherson was the first to pursue the truck after spotting it at Grand Avenue and South 4th Street. Witnesses told police that people were jumping out of the way of the truck and that the driver disobeyed verbal commands.
Comstock's criminal history in Iowa includes a handful of minor charges, including disorderly conduct, drug possession, curfew and driving violations.