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St. Robert police chief considers himself lucky after harrowing chase on I-44

May 16, 2011|by Sara Forhetz, KY3 News |

ST. ROBERT, Mo. -- The police chief released dash camera video on Monday from frightening moments during his chase last Thursday.  Chief Curtis Curenton and other officers were trying to stop a man who was firing an assault rifle out his window on busy Interstate 44 between St. Robert and Rolla.

The video makes clear that it's amazing and unbelievable that no one was injured or killed in that chase.  Curenton says, in his 15-year career, he has never seen anything like this.

"After he started shooting and we realized the caliber of the weapon, we knew we had to get him off the road,” said Curenton.

It was an intense 23-mile chase, eastbound on Interstate 44 from St. Robert to Kingshighway in Rolla, and finally onto the Missouri University of Science and Technology campus.


Police say Cody Willcoxson, 31, drove move than 120mph at times.  On one of his swerves, police believe it was when he was going for his AK-47 assault rifle in the back seat.

"He had approximately 90 rounds and he almost spent all of them,” said Curenton.

Curenton was called for back-up, following closely behind his rookie officer who was first in line, Officer Trenton Herr.

"I can tell you the act of valor that Officer Herr displayed -- he's been with us only for a year and he's a 22-year-old kid, and he showed remarkable valor,” said Curenton.

Willcoxson fired several times out his driver's side window, shooting at Officer Herr and Chief Curenton.  After spike strips were thrown down to try to stop him, it only enraged Willcoxson to start firing even more.

"That's an awfully big round; it can go through cars, engine blocks, the whole nine yards,” said Curenton.

And it did.  Chief Curenton's car was hit at least three times.  One round into his side mirror was less than 6 inches away from being a fatal shot for the chief.

"When we got to that point, and I had my hand on the steering wheel, I could actually feel debris hitting my arm from where he hit my side mirror,” he said.

Willcoxson keeps barreling through after hitting a car at one intersection, and plowing down a concrete barrier.  Curenton and his officer weren't giving up.  With heavy traffic and a highly populated highway, there was one goal, stopping Willcoxson before he stopped someone else's life.

 Curenton says it's really been tough for it to sink in how close to death he came, along with Rolla police department, sheriff’s deputies from Phelps and Pulaski county, and Highway Patrol troopers.  He says his wife and three little boys are so fortunate that he came home on Thursday night.

Curenton was wearing a bullet proof vest, but it would not have stopped this type of assault rifle.  It goes to show the risk that all of the officers involved in this chase face.

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