For about 17 minutes on Wednesday night, Ramsey County Sheriff Bob Fletcher chased a stolen car in St. Paul with a camera rolling, sharing the feed with his Facebook followers for another installment of his show "Live on Patrol."
The pursuit — through the East Side, going the wrong way down one-way streets and with the fleeing car briefly accelerating on a residential sidewalk — was never officially joined by St. Paul police, which like many departments weighs the risk to the public when giving chase.
Video of the chase reveals that at one point Fletcher seemed to be aware that he was violating St. Paul police protocol and urged his passenger not to broadcast what they were doing.
Sheriff's deputies eventually arrested the 26-year-old driver, Luiz Miguel Reyes, in the 1400 block of E. Minnehaha Avenue. He was being held at the Ramsey County jail on charges of fleeing police and receiving stolen property.
The chase — speeding down Arlington and Maryland avenues and Rice and Arcade streets, among other roads — was questioned Thursday by Ramsey County Commissioner Jim McDonough, who represents many of the areas the sheriff raced through and said it seemed dangerous to conduct a pursuit that St. Paul police wouldn't make.
Fletcher declined Thursday to speak to the Star Tribune. But on Friday he posted a statement on his Facebook page, defending his pursuit of the stolen car and saying the Sheriff's Office permits pursuit of stolen vehicles as long as the risk isn't severe. In St. Paul, where 2,705 vehicles were stolen in 2019, the police generally don't pursue stolen vehicles.
Wrote Fletcher on Facebook: "The increase in carjackings and auto thefts is in part driven by the criminals' awareness that in some jurisdictions police officers are not allowed to pursue suspects. ... This belief has emboldened the criminal element in our community to commit more crime. Until we change that criminal mind-set, we have no chance of reducing crime."
St. Paul Police Chief Todd Axtell was not available Thursday for comment, according to a spokesman who confirmed that St. Paul police had monitored Fletcher's pursuit but never officially joined it.
"I would hope the sheriff will really seriously reflect on the situation," said McDonough, who added it was up to St. Paul police officials to decide how they want Fletcher to operate in the city.
The St. Paul Police Department's pursuit policy asks officers to weigh several factors before initiating a chase, including whether "the pursuit itself would create a more hazardous condition than if no pursuit occurred."
An officer may initiate a pursuit if the driver has committed a violent felony or is about to commit one, or if the driver is driving so recklessly before the pursuit begins that they pose a danger to other drivers, the policy states.
And it specifically instructs officers to end a pursuit if the fleeing driver goes the wrong way down a one-way road. At least twice during the pursuit, Fletcher followed the fleeing silver Jetta down a narrow one-way street going the wrong way, cars parked on both sides.
Part-time crime analyst Pat Scott rode along with Fletcher, sharing their location with authorities over the police radio. In the Facebook video, Scott mentions going the wrong way. Fletcher quietly tells Scott: "Keep that off, OK? The wrong way part."
Seconds later a St. Paul patrol supervisor can be heard instructing his officers to terminate the chase, mentioning the one-way streets.
A St. Paul police spokesman said officers monitored the chase and any officers following it were ordered to stop. However, officers in one squad car were authorized to deploy tire-deflation devices ahead of the fleeing driver.
They were successful and the car eventually came to a halt. By that time, two sheriff's deputy SUVs had raced ahead of Fletcher at his instruction.
Reyes, who was arrested at 10:20 p.m., has a lengthy criminal record that includes first-degree burglary, domestic assault and aggravated robbery. He was sent to prison for 32 months for his most recent conviction in 2017.
The chase was the biggest action of the night for Fletcher, who racked up 5,000 comments and 33,000 views for the "Live" episode. Some of the viewers were local, but plenty of others seemed to be watching from various points around the globe. "Hello from Aberdeen, Scotland," one person chimed in.
The Facebook show now has some 55 videos, most of them filmed through the windshield of Fletcher's squad car as he and Scott narrate what they're seeing. McDonough and other county commissioners have said the show tends to reduce police work to entertainment.
"A lot of people enjoy it ... but is that what you want to take your position down to?" McDonough said. "Is the focus really on public safety and working with the community, or ... to entertain folks for a couple of hours while he drives around the city?"
Matt McKinney • 612-673-7329