‘A dumb choice:’ Beer found in stolen vehicle after pursuit involving 3 sets of stop sticks, PIT maneuver

WEST ALLIS -- Prosecutors say they found beer in a stolen vehicle allegedly driven by a Milwaukee man, who is accused of leading police on a wild pursuit in the middle of the night. At one point, an officer had to run for his life to avoid being struck. Additionally, he's accused of ramming a squad as the pursuit finally came to an end.

Maxwell Pape, the owner of the stolen vehicle, was stunned when FOX6 showed him the dashcam video on Tuesday, July 24.

"They kept going after this? Geez!" he said.

Ayex Lopez

Ayex Lopez, 18, of Milwaukee, faces three charges -- one count of vehicle operator flee/elude traffic officer, causing damage to property, first degree recklessly endangering safety and one count of drive or operate vehicle without owner's consent.

According to a criminal complaint, shortly before 3 a.m. on May 11, a West Allis police officer in a marked squad spotted a vehicle traveling at an estimated 50 miles-per-hour in a 30 mph zone on 60th Street -- turning west on Hayes, where it accelerated to an estimated 60 miles-per-hour in a 25 mph zone, where it was traveling into oncoming lanes. The complaint says the vehicle disregarded a stop sign on 68th Street, and went through a red light at 68th and Beloit.

A pursuit ensued, and the complaint says the suspect vehicle nearly struck a parked car on 62nd Street as the driver continued to disregard red lights and stop signs.

Stop sticks were deployed at the intersection of 60th and Lincoln. The complaint says the suspect vehicle accelerated to 70 miles-per-hour on 60th Street, nearly striking a stopped vehicle. The suspect vehicle had to swerve to avoid a collision.

Stop sticks were deployed again at 60th and Beloit -- where the suspect vehicle swerved to avoid the stop sticks and the driver lost control, spinning 360 degrees into the opposite lanes of traffic. The driver regained control of the vehicle and continued to flee with both of the driver's side tires deflated.

"There goes the other tire and he's still going!" said Pape.

At 60th and Mitchell, an officer was preparing to deploy a third set of stop sticks, when the suspect vehicle began to slow and drove into oncoming traffic before turning onto Mitchell and heading directly for the officer. The complaint says that officer had to run to avoid being struck. The suspect vehicle then continued in the middle of the road on Mitchell, disregarding stop signs and red lights again.

At Greenfield, an officer was able to close on the vehicle -- attempting to get next to it to get a look at the driver. At this point, the complaint says the suspect vehicle swerved toward the officer, who had to take evasive action to avoid a collision. The suspect vehicle turned onto 70th Street and continued at 50 miles-per-hour. An officer noted a large piece of tire flew from the vehicle and both driver's side tires were traveling on rims.

The vehicle eventually ended up on I-94 westbound -- exiting at 84th Street, disregarding the red light at I-94 and 84th Street and getting back onto the freeway.

The pursuit continued with multiple squads following -- nearing Waukesha County at I-94 and 124th Street.

A PIT maneuver was performed near I-94 and Moorland -- where the suspect vehicle spun out as a result. It came to rest against an officer's squad, and as the officer exited, the complaint says the suspect vehicle's engine was revving and the driver reversed and drove forward -- ramming the squad.

The pursuit lasted for just over 10 miles.

The complaint says the driver, later identified as Lopez, was removed from the vehicle, as was a passenger. Police noted a strong odor of alcohol coming from Lopez, and the complaint says an open bottle of beer was found on the driver's side floor. They found an ignition key that appeared to be "shaved down" on Lopez. He was cited for OWI, first offense, and a search warrant was obtained for a blood draw.

Prosecutors say Lopez said "he had just bought the vehicle for $15," and that "he panicked" and "it was a dumb choice."

The suspect vehicle was found to have been stolen on May 7. It sustained moderate damage as a result of the pursuit.

"The back bumper is falling off and the front end is smashed. I'm just happy they got it back at all, to be honest with you, and that they caught the people," said Pape.

Lopez is currently being held in the House of Correction. He has pleaded not guilty. A plea hearing has been set for Aug. 14.