An Austin woman who was taken into custody after driving around a squad car blocking off the scene of a fire late on the evening of Tuesday, February 14th, and then leading authorities on a vehicle chase that ultimately ended near Mayo Clinic Health Systems in Austin early the following morning has pleaded not guilty to eight different charges against her in Mower County District Court.
Officers from the Austin Police Department responded to a report of a fire at the Japan Panda restaurant near the intersection of West Oakland Avenue and 14th St. SW shortly before midnight on Tuesday, February 14th. Chief of Police Dave McKichan stated in a report that while on the scene, a vehicle being driven by 33-year old Samantha Rae Ricke of Austin drove around a squad car that was blocking off the street. Chief McKichan stated that Ricke’s vehicle entered the fire scene and drove up to one of the active fire hoses before stopping. Officers attempted to communicate with Ricke, who ultimately reversed at a high rate of speed squealing the vehicle’s tires before she exited the scene. When officers attempted to stop the vehicle, McKichan stated that Ricke stopped initially before once again leaving while spinning her tires. Officers followed with lights and sirens activated, trying to once again get the vehicle to stop, which it did on 8th Ave NW. However, Chief McKichan stated that Ricke again fled and due to the speed of the pursuit at that time, officers terminated the chase.
The Mower County Sheriff’s Office located Ricke’s vehicle almost immediately thereafter and attempted to stop it. McKichan indicated that Austin Police Department officers assisted Sheriff’s Department Deputies in ultimately arresting Ricke in a parking lot at the intersection of 1st Drive and 4th St. NW near Mayo Clinic Health Systems in Austin. Ricke was placed in the Mower County jail, and she pleaded not guilty during a court appearance Monday to felonies for 1st degree DWI, driving under the influence of a controlled substance, fleeing a peace officer in a motor vehicle and theft, taking and driving a vehicle without the owner’s consent, plus Ricke also pleaded not guilty to a gross misdemeanor charge for driving after revocation, inimical to public safety, a misdemeanor for reckless driving, plus petty misdemeanors for following a fire apparatus, parking at a fire scene, failure to stop at a stop sign and speeding.
A pretrial hearing for Ricke in Mower County District Court has been scheduled for June 22nd, and a jury trial has been scheduled for July 10th.