LIMA — A 5-month-old girl suffered serious injuries after her 31-year-old father led Parma police on a short chase after he was suspected of shoplifting food and beer, police said.
Robert Jones, 31, of Cleveland died after crashing into a garbage truck. His car burst into flames and officers quickly extinguished it before discovering the child and the child’s grandmother were inside the car, Parma police spokesman Sgt. Dan Ciryak said.
The 48-year-old woman, the 5-year-old girl and the garbage truck driver were taken to MetroHealth. Their conditions are unknown.
“At the time the officer didn’t know what crimes he may have committed before this and didn’t have information whether or not anyone else was in the car,” Ciryak said. “We believe the officers followed protocol but are still looking into that.
The chase reached speeds of 60 mph, Ciryak said. The 48-year-old woman could face charges in connection with the shoplifting, Ciryak said.
The incident began about 5 a.m., when Jones and his mother separately went into Giant Eagle. Jones loaded up his cart, left some items and walked out with steak, lobster tails and beer without paying, Ciryak said.
An officer pulled up behind the car, a Chevy Malibu, at the intersection of Ridge Road and West Ridgewood Drive. Jones sped up, turned on several side streets and returned to Ridge Road. He turned right on Pearl Road, skidded and slammed into the garbage truck, according to police dashboard camera video.
The driver’s side door slammed into the truck at the end of the two-minute, two-mile chase. Officers ran to the car, which quickly burst into flames because of a gas leak. One officer’s pants caught fire and he stomped out the fire.
Several officers used handheld fire extinguishers to quell the blaze and realized Jones was dead. They also spotted the 48-year-old woman in the front passenger seat and the 5-month-old in a car seat.
Officers pulled the woman from a car. It took police and firefighters about seven minutes to pull the baby out of the car, Ciryak said.
Ciryak said the car Jones drove was registered to someone else. The owner of the car told police he lent the car to a woman with a child because the child was hungry, according to police dispatch records.
Ciryak said Jones did not have any active warrants and that it appeared he was speeding from police to avoid getting arrested or cited for shoplifting.
“It’s sad this was a choice he made,” Ciryak said. It’s a minor offense, but he chose to run. Look at all the lives he put in danger.”