by BETH ALTENA
Kent County Sheriff’s Deputy Sgt. Roger Zoppa said a man fleeing authorities but calling on his cell phone threatening to kill himself finally gave away his location. The incident began in Grand Rapids Tuesday, Sept. 6, when the man, estranged from his wife, began the calls.
By tracking his cell phone and following clues the suspect offered, police knew the man had left Grand Rapids and was somewhere in Rockford. Zoppa said the Sheriff’s Department took over the hunt as it became apparent the suspect had left Grand Rapids and fled into the county.
“We were using a K-9 unit, tracking him in heavy woods in the Blakely and 7 Mile area,” Zoppa said. “Obviously the dog didn’t know what he was tracking,” he added, noting that in most tracking cases the K-9 has a starting point with scent to follow.
Zoppa said the suspect gave rescuers clues to his location, such as saying he could see a tin roof, but during the hunt refused to reveal his location.
“Some of the cell phones are very accurate, some not so accurate,” Zoppa said. “Sometimes they can pinpoint it right down, others can only tell you the location is between this tower and that one.”
Zoppa said during the hunt, deputies at times thought they had the location narrowed to a two-mile and one-mile radius. Finally the suspect told the authorities that he was at Cannonsburg Ski Area.
While preparations were being made for the West Michigan Healing Fields less than a quarter mile away, first responders converged on the vehicle of the man, who had injured himself badly. According to Zoppa, as rescue units entered the parking lot off the ski area driveway, the man jumped from his vehicle, ran a short distance, then laid down on the grass.
“He had cut his leg pretty badly,” Zoppa said, and said the injury included severing an artery.
Zoppa said the man’s wife indicated that he had acted in a similar manner in the past. The incident ended shortly after 4 p.m. “It was a desperate attempt looking for attention.”