A chase that started Tuesday in West Baton Rouge Parish ended at LSU when the suspect’s car left a winding road and slammed into University Lake before he was rescued and hospitalized, authorities said.
West Baton Rouge Parish sheriff’s Col. Richie Johnson said Stephen Eric Chilton, 39, 738 Resor Ave., Harahan, is physically fine, but he was taken to a Baton Rouge hospital for psychiatric evaluation.
Johnson said a deputy saw Chilton running from a truck stop casino on La. 415 and thought it looked suspicious.
Jacob Nici, 18, of Shreveport, an LSU freshman who was driving by when the crash occurred, helped the deputy pull Chilton out of the car.
“The car was upside down in the lake and me and the police officer got into the lake and tried to bust the windows and pull the doors open, but that wasn’t working,” Nici said.
“We got our hands underneath one of the windows that was slightly rolled down and that’s whenever the officer somehow opened that up, pulled the guy out and arrested him,” Nici said.
Nici stood shoeless with some friends, watching with dozens of onlookers as a flatbed truck pulled the white Nissan Sentra that Chilton was driving out of the water.
“I knew that guy in the car was in trouble, he was stuck in there,” Nici said. “I just wanted to help the officer out.”
Witnesses said Chilton traveled on Dalrymple Drive, turned onto West Lakeshore Drive and was driving pretty fast before going into the lake.
Erika Schroeder, 20, of Southlake, Texas, recounted what she heard and saw from her second-floor window of her Kappa Alpha Theta sorority house.
“I heard a siren and looked out my window and saw the car go in the water,” she said.
“I saw him go over the curb, kind of slide down in the grass and then the car flipped over in the water,” Schroeder said. “I think he might have hit a tree.”
When the deputy pulled Chilton out of the lake, Chilton said he thought he was being followed and that someone was trying to kill him, Johnson said.
After seeing Chilton run out of the casino, Johnson said, the deputy followed him onto Interstate 10 with lights and sirens on, trying to get Chilton to pull over.
Family members reported Chilton missing earlier Tuesday and said he has a history of psychiatric issues, Johnson said.
Chilton could be booked on several traffic violations, Johnson said, but authorities will wait to see what happens with the psychiatric evaluation before deciding whether to book him.
LSU Police and Baton Rouge police assisted with traffic control and Baton Rouge firefighters helped get the car out of the water.