Friday, August 13, 2010

High-speed chase ends in armed arrest

Alleged DUI driver eludes local citizen and police for 22 minutes

Express Staff Writer

A high-speed chase that reportedly endangered several lives on state Highway 75 last Friday ended with guns drawn in downtown Hailey.

Fifty-year-old Bellevue resident Stephen Kolp was arrested on suspicion of driving under the influence around 8:30 p.m. Friday, Aug. 6, at the corner of Bullion and Main streets, 22 minutes after an eyewitness called 911 to report a reckless driver near St. Luke's Wood River Medical Center.

Kimberly Coonis, executive director of the Senior Connection in Hailey, said a late-model white GMC truck began tailgating her while she drove south from Ketchum near St. Luke's. The driver of the truck then tried to pass her on the right shoulder of the highway, failed at that, and then swerved into oncoming traffic, Coonis said. Then Coonis called 911, she said.

"It was scary as hell," Coonis said. "I sped up to about 65 to stay away from him."

As sheriff's deputies mobilized in Hailey in response to the 911 call, Coonis watched as the driver swerved in and out of oncoming traffic. The motorist eventually passed her where the highway turns to two lanes south of the hospital, she said.

Coonis then chased Kolp, while reporting the events to police on her cell phone, she said.


"I was going 85 miles per hour at one point, and he was way ahead of me," she said.

Coonis said Kolp's driving threatened eight vehicles other than hers. At Alturas Road, five miles north of Hailey, Kolp lost control of his vehicle and wound up in a ditch, said Coonis.

"It took him several tries to get out of the ditch. Someone came to help him and I told him not to because the police were on the way."

According to Coonis, Kolp then succeeded in escaping the ditch and sped south toward Hailey, passing three police cars that were entering Highway 75 at the junction of Buttercup Road. She said two more police cars were heading north on Highway 75.

"He went right around them," Coonis said.

Blaine County Sheriff Walt Femling said in an interview on Thursday that sheriff's deputies then backed off from the driver so he wouldn't speed through Hailey and endanger lives.

Jay Davis, public information officer for the sheriff's office, said Thursday that Kolp sideswiped a vehicle at Galena and Main Street before he was finally stopped at Bullion and Main streets by police cars parked in the intersection. Police officers held Kolp at gunpoint until he exited the vehicle.

"He was slumped over the wheel. It took several attempts to get him to put his hands out of the vehicle," said Davis.

"He scared me to death, and it takes a lot to scare me," said Coonis, who witnessed the arrest and gave an official statement at the scene of the arrest to sheriff's deputies.

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