Court of Appeals of Missouri, Eastern District, Second Division
Appeal from the City of St. Louis Circuit Court. The Honorable John J. Riley.
FOR APPELLANT: Maleaner R. Harvey, Public Defenders Office, St. Louis, Missouri.
For FOR RESPONDENT: Jennifer A. Rodewald, Assistant Attorney General, Jefferson City, Missouri.
Philip M. Hess, Judge. Sherri B. Sullivan, P.J. and Mary K. Hoff, J. concur.
Philip M. Hess, Judge
Willie Randle (Defendant) appeals the trial court's judgment entered on his convictions following a bench trial for first-degree tampering with a motor vehicle, resisting a lawful stop, and first-degree endangering the welfare of a child. On appeal, Defendant challenges the sufficiency of the evidence to support his felony convictions. We affirm.
Viewed in the light most favorable to the State, the evidence adduced at trial shows that between 5 and 6 p.m., on December 5, 2012, Detective Jason Brandhorst, of the St. Louis Metropolitan Police Department's Anti-Crime Task Force, was investigating a vehicle of interest in a residential neighborhood when he observed a silver 1990s model Pontiac Grand Am with damage to the driver's side and a temporary Illinois license plate drive past his location. Earlier in the day, Detective Brandhorst had received information that a vehicle matching this description had been recently stolen and that Defendant was reportedly operating the vehicle. The detective also learned Defendant had outstanding warrants, including a parole violation. After observing the Grand Am drive past his location, Detective Brandhorst radioed Detectives Joseph Bell and Orlando Morrison, who were patrolling the area in an unmarked patrol car, advising them to watch for the silver Grand Am, which was heading their way.
Shortly thereafter, the detectives observed a silver Pontiac Grand Am approaching their location and began surveillance on the vehicle. While the detectives were stopped at an intersection waiting for the light to change, Defendant drove up alongside their patrol car. At the time, Detectives Bell and Morrison were both wearing tactical vests with " big velcro straps" and " POLICE" clearly designated in large, reflective letters on the front and back of the vests. Detective Bell looked
over and made eye contact with Defendant, whom the detective recognized from a police photograph. When Defendant looked over and saw the detectives, he appeared to recognize them as police officers. As soon as Defendant saw the officers, he ran the red light and sped off in the stolen vehicle at a high rate of speed.
As the detectives followed in pursuit, they observed Defendant driving erratically, at excessive speeds, running several stop signs, and weaving in and out of traffic. At one point, Defendant violently swerved, barely avoiding a collision with another car. Due to Defendant's high speed and erratic driving, the detectives were unable to consistently maintain visual contact with the Grand Am and air support was called in to assist. As defendant continued to flee, the detectives had to deploy spike strips along the roadway in an attempt to force the vehicle to a stop. After crossing over the spike strips, however, Defendant accelerated the vehicle to an even greater speed and continued to evade police, despite having deflated tires. Just before reaching I-70 highway, Defendant stopped and exited the vehicle and began running towards the highway. After Defendant abandoned the vehicle, officers noticed a small child (later identified as Defendant's four-year-old son, " D.R." ) exit the passenger side of the car. While one of the officers secured the child, Detective Bell began chasing Defendant.
Around the same time, Detective Robert Simons arrived at the scene and joined in the foot chase. As he was chasing Defendant, Detective Simons yelled, " Police, Stop, you're under arrest." Defendant turned to look at the officer but continued running towards the highway. When he reached the highway, Defendant began crossing busy lanes of traffic and dodging cars, causing drivers to slam on their brakes. Around this time, Officer Michael Roth, with the canine unit, arrived and pulled his patrol car up to within 10 to 15 feet of Defendant. Officer Roth exited the patrol car with his canine partner and ordered Defendant to get on the ground. Defendant was apprehended and taken into custody.
Following his arrest, Defendant was charged as a prior and persistent offender with the class C felony of first-degree tampering, the class D felony of resisting a lawful stop, the class C felony of first-degree endangering the welfare of a child, and the class A misdemeanor of third-degree assault of a law enforcement officer. After a bench trial, he was found guilty on all counts and sentenced to a total of seven years' imprisonment on the felony convictions and six months in a medium security institution for ...