Bellingham man sentenced for near-repeat of police chase that killed deputy in 2001

THE BELLINGHAM HERALDApril 15, 2014 

BELLINGHAM - A Bellingham man must spend the next nine years in prison for a high-speed car chase and armed standoff near Lake Samish, a Superior Court judge ruled Tuesday, April 15.

Adrian G. Sassen Van Elsloo's name has been infamous among local police since the night of Sept. 12, 2001. That night he led a sheriff's deputy-in-training on a 100 mph chase on the outskirts of Bellingham. The patrol car crashed into a tree at Samish Way and Elwood Avenue, killing Whatcom County Sheriff's Deputy Matt Herzog, who had been training the cadet.

Sassen Van Elsloo served a four-year sentence for eluding and, because he fled the crash scene, felony hit and run.

Four days after his release from prison, deputies arrested him again on suspicion of driving under the influence and obstructing law enforcement. He was found guilty of the latter charge.

Sassen Van Elsloo spent the next few years in and out of prison for robbery, drug crimes and jumping bail.

On the afternoon of Dec. 11, 2012, an officer spotted Sassen Van Elsloo, who had warrants out for his arrest, driving a Lincoln Continental north on Chuckanut Drive. The car sped away from the lights and sirens. The Lincoln's route looped through the outskirts of Fairhaven, then south along Lake Samish Drive. Spike strips took out the car's tires, and deputies purposely crashed into the back end of the car so it spun into a ditch off Nulle Road.

Sassen Van Elsloo waved a loaded Smith & Wesson revolver. He held the gun to his head. Deputies struggled to negotiate with him. Eventually they fired bean bag rounds to subdue him.

Last month a jury found Sassen Van Elsloo, 31, guilty of attempting to elude police and being a felon in possession of a firearm.

On Tuesday in Whatcom County Superior Court, Herzog's father, Todd, recounted the anguish his family has been through for the past 12 years - "I wish I had the words to describe to you the pain," he said - and his belief that Sassen Van Elsloo has learned nothing from his mistakes.

"I don't believe this man can be rehabilitated," Todd Herzog said.

He asked Judge Deborra Garrett to impose the maximum prison term. Instead she ordered Sassen Van Elsloo to serve nine years and seven months behind bars - five months fewer than the deputy prosecutor, Eric Richey, had suggested.

"It's of great concern to the court that this particular crime is essentially a repeat of the tragic crime of 12 years ago," Garrett said.

Yet she told him he still has time to turn his life around.

"I don't see Mr. Sassen Van Elsloo," she said, "as a hardened, incorrigible criminal who's a great danger to society."

Reach Caleb Hutton at 360-715-2276 or caleb.hutton@bellinghamherald.com. Read his Dispatcher Blog at bellinghamherald.com/dispatcher-blog or follow him on Twitter at @bhamcrime.

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