Evendale police to conduct internal review of pursuit before fiery crash

Posted at 2:29 PM, Apr 25, 2018
and last updated 2018-04-25 14:31:08-04

SPRINGDALE, Ohio -- The Evendale Police Department will review an officer's chase that ended with a suspect dead early Saturday.

Evandale Officer Stephen Roach was doing traffic enforcement on northbound Interstate 75 near Glendale-Milford Road, according to the department. He said he saw a vehicle speeding through a construction zone -- nearly 100 mph -- and weaving through traffic, so he tried to pull over the driver.

According to the department, the driver, later identified as 35-year-old Keith Conley, looked like he might stop but then quickly accelerated on the ramp to westbound Interstate 275.

Dashcam footage shows Roach lost sight of the car. According to the Ohio State Highway Patrol, which is investigating the crash itself, Conley tried to exit onto northbound state Route 747 but lost control. He went through a guardrail, over an embankment, through a second guardrail and finally struck another car.

Conley's car was on fire when Roach got to him. The Highway Patrol said speed and alcohol were factors in the crash.

Roach and a Springdale police officer pulled Conley out of his car, but he was pronounced dead at the scene.

The driver and passenger of the other car were not injured.

Roach was in contact with his on-duty supervisor about his attempt to stop the vehicle, according to the police department. Conley crashed less than 2 minutes after Roach activated his overhead lights.

The department's internal policy for pursuits does allow officers to chase a suspect when "the officer observes, prior to an attempted traffic stop, actions of the violator which constitute a risk of serious physical harm to the officer or others and the officer determines that such actions require an immediate attempt to stop the violator."

Roach, who is white, was formerly a Cincinnati police officer but quit after fatally shooting Timothy Thomas, who was black, in an Over-the-Rhine alleyway 17 years ago. The killing sparked three nights of rioting.

Roach was charged with two misdemeanors -- negligent homicide and obstruction of official business. He opted for a bench trial instead of a jury trial, and Judge Ralph E. Winkler found him not guilty on Sept. 26, 2001. Roach did not testify at the trial, but he said earlier that he thought Thomas was reaching in his waistband for a gun. Later, Roach told investigators he shot Thomas accidentally.

Less than four months after the trial, Roach quit and went to work for Evendale. A year after the shooting, a Cincinnati police internal affairs report said Roach violated policies by running with his finger on the trigger of his gun.