Crime

‘That’s cooking, absolutely,’ State Patrol says of I-5 chase that reached 121 mph

Watch how officers are trained for high speed chases

Kevin Butler with the South Carolina Criminal Justice Academy's police pursuit training class demonstrates how police officers train to drive when responding to a call or during a pursuit.
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Kevin Butler with the South Carolina Criminal Justice Academy's police pursuit training class demonstrates how police officers train to drive when responding to a call or during a pursuit.

A pair of police chases Thursday evening on Interstate 5 through Whatcom County reached triple-digit speeds, including one as fast as 121 mph, as the Washington State Patrol arrested one driver and is still looking for the second.

“That’s cooking, absolutely,” Trooper Heather Axtman told The Bellingham Herald, referring the driver reaching 121 mph. “You hardly ever see that kind of speed. For a professional, I’ve reached close to that on my way to a critical incident, but I can tell you it was not comfortable for me, and I drive for a living.”

The first incident reached only 105 mph, Axtman said, when a trooper attempted to pull over a 2015 Chrysler 200 that was headed northbound on I-5 near the Slater Road exit at 7:24 p.m. The car, which reportedly was occupied only by the female driver, exited Portal Way, before getting back on the interstate and continuing north in the southbound lanes.

Axtman said troopers broke off the pursuit for safety concerns and were unable to locate the car. Bellingham Police officers went to the house where the car was registered, but did not find the car there, Axtman said.

Later that night, about 10:30 p.m., a trooper in northern Skagit County clocked a 2003 Lexus heading northbound on I-5 traveling at 121 mph, Axtman said. The trooper activated their lights near the Whatcom County line, but the driver refused to yield, and the pursuit ended when the Lexus began passing others on the shoulder.

Two other troopers picked up the car coming into Bellingham at milepost 250 and tried to stop it, but the driver exited at Lakeway Drive, where another trooper was waiting and had set up spike strips along the off-ramp.

The State Patrol took Mitchell Peter Cozzi, 19, into custody without incident and booked him into Skagit County Jail on suspicion of reckless driving and attempting to elude police. Axtman said she did not know where Cozzi is from, but the car was registered out of Vancouver, Wash.

A high-speed pursuit Thursday night, July 26 through Bellingham ended in a crash on East Chestnut Street. Washington State Patrol arrested a suspect the next day.

David Rasbach joined The Bellingham Herald in 2005 and now covers breaking news. He has been an editor and writer in several western states since 1994.
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