Tulsa Police Glad To Have Eye In The Sky Again

Tuesday, July 20th 2010, 9:25 pm
By: News On 6

By Chris Wright, The News On 6

TULSA, OK -- One of Tulsa's police helicopters went back up in the air last week, and TPD says it is paying dividends.

The chopper has already assisted on a number of calls, but none more dramatic than a high-speed chase this past weekend.

7/19/2010 Related Story Tulsa Police Helicopter Back In The Air Captures Dramatic Chase

It didn't take long for TPD pilots to shake off the rust. Within 24 hours of returning to the skies, the chopper spotted a stolen vehicle near 51st and Yale Saturday evening.

The driver, Derrick Coehn, 35, then led police on a high-speed pursuit. Tulsa Police believe he averaged about 100 miles-per-hour. Cops on the ground backed off, while the helicopter trailed Coehn from the air.  They hoped he would slow down.

"With the helicopter in the air, they don't know that we're even there watching them," said Officer Byron Barnhart. "Consequently they'll think they'll outrun the police or the police have given up."

But Coehn never let up on the gas. For 20 minutes, he drove at dangerous speeds on I-44, the Broken Arrow Expressway, and finally 11th street.

He narrowly missed several cars while running a red light.

"When you see something like this, this blatant disregard for the safety of other personnel out on the roadway, it's very unsettling for us," Officer Barnhart said.

Barnhart and the officer running the chopper's camera stuck with the car until the chase came to a sudden end near 195th East Avenue.

Coehn survived the crash, and remains in critical condition.

Without the helicopter, Barnhart says the suspect likely would have evaded police. And after being grounded for more than eight months, he says it feels great to once again be patrolling the skies.

"We've been anxiously waiting this time, and now that it's come, we're very glad to be back," Officer Barnhart.

Officer Barnhart was still flying these past eight months, just not with police. He owns his own plane, and flies Blackhawks for the Oklahoma National Guard.