Woman crashes after Austin police call off high-speed pursuit

AUSTIN (KXAN) — There are still questions after a woman led Austin police officers on a chase reaching speeds of 115 mph through the heart of Austin early Wednesday.

Sgt. Dustin Lee with the Austin Police Department said an officer tried to pull over the silver Toyota at 3:40 a.m. in the northbound lanes of Interstate 35 heading north near Woodward Street. Elisa Montecinos, 35, instead sped off, passing through downtown and North Austin, officers say.

Police stopped chasing the car when they reached Austin’s northern city limits upon orders from their commanders. The decision to stop pursuing Montecinos came after officers evaluated the situation and determined there were safety concerns for other people on the road.

Moments later they saw Montecinos crash the suspected stolen car into another vehicle on the I-35 service road at Wells Branch Parkway.

“It just seems odd to me that police would stop chasing someone who’s breaking the law, because they’re breaking the law too much, or something,” one driver said.

But Austin Police Sgt. Dustin Lee says the decision to call off the chase was simple. He was the officer who decided to stop chasing Montecinos less than a minute before she crashed.

“The instant those scales tip to where the risks to the public outweigh the benefit of apprehending the suspect,” Lee said, “the pursuit’s terminated at that point.”

He says that was exactly what happened in the chase early Wednesday.

“Once we can make that determination, we’ll do that minute by minute to evaluate and keep making the determination of if it’s safe to proceed.”

Other agencies, including Travis County and Pflugerville Police, were called to assist before Austin police officers stopped their pursuit.

Montecinos faces charges of evading a police officer.

Austin Police Chase Policies:

To give you more context, some critics say APD needs to add more restrictions to its chase policy.

Esther Williford became a widow in June of 2012 when an APD officer started chasing a man who had stolen a truck out of a mall parking lot. The truck ran a red light, smashing into James Williford and killing him.

Esther believes the decision should not be left to individual officers. Instead she’d like to limit high-speed chases to felons or violent offenders. She’s now suing the city for more than $1 million dollars.

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