Driver charged in chase that killed Milwaukee officer had child in car.
Man remains in jail with bail set at $500,000
As Milwaukee police lights flashed behind a black Volkswagen Passat, the driver who had abruptly changed lanes made a choice.
He had an open traffic case and was still driving with a revoked license.
He had a gun and his 5-year-old son in the car.
He decided to flee.
“I thought you guys couldn’t pursue vehicles unless it was a felony,” Ladell Harrison told detectives after the squad that was pursuing him flipped, killing an officer.
The detectives told him he was incorrect and the chase policy had been changed, according to a criminal complaint.
Harrison, 28, is accused of fleeing from Officers Matthew Schulze and Charles Irvine Jr. and leading them on a chase on West Silver Spring Drive last Thursday evening.
Harrison wove in and out of traffic and reached speeds greater than 96 mph, the complaint says.
The squad car behind him lost control at North 76th Street and rolled — one witness said it flipped 20 times — before landing on its roof.
Irvine died in the crash. The 23-year-old was the first Milwaukee officer killed in the line of duty in 22 years. Schultze was seriously injured and has since been released from the hospital.
Harrison was arrested hours after the crash, and on Tuesday prosecutors charged him with 11 felonies, including five drug counts, fleeing an officer causing death and two counts of first-degree recklessly endangering safety.
He remained in Milwaukee County Jail on Tuesday with his bail set at $500,000. He is due back in court June 22.
“I commend all of those involved in this investigation,” Milwaukee Police Chief Alfonso Morales said in a statement after the charges were filed.
Ongoing drug investigation
The criminal complaint shows the Milwaukee High Intensity Drug Trafficking Area Task Force was investigating Harrison for months before the chase.
It started with a fatal drug overdose in Waukesha County.
According to the complaint:
A woman and her brother had gone to a Days Inn in Milwaukee to buy heroin on Nov. 3.
The heroin “did not taste right,” the brother later told investigators.
The woman died the next day. Toxicology tests showed she had died from an overdose of fentanyl, a powerful synthetic opioid.
The Waukesha County Sheriff’s Department investigated, finding a phone number and nickname of the dealer that were associated with Harrison.
The Sheriff’s Department, the drug task force and the U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration began focusing on Harrison.
Using a confidential informant, they set up several controlled buys of cocaine and heroin from Harrison in December, January and February. The informant reported Harrison often had a gun during these sales.
In February, Harrison told the informant he had just bought a black Volkswagen because he had learned police had pictures of his previous car. During that controlled buy, the informant returned with $700 worth of “suspected heroin.”
When police tested it, they discovered it was fentanyl.
In March, investigators were following Harrison, who appeared to sell drugs to someone inside another car. Police pulled over that car. The occupant had 0.32 grams of heroin and told investigators he had been buying heroin from Harrison for more than a year.
After the chase last Thursday, Milwaukee police detectives knew they were looking for the Volkswagen Passat; Schulze and Irvine had punched the license plate into the computer before the crash.
The complaint outlines what police say happened next:
Detectives and officers used an undercover car and went to an apartment in the 9500 block of W. Fond du Lac. Ave. That address was linked to the Passat’s registration.
They saw the car parked in the lot and a woman climbing into it. A man, later identified as Harrison, went into the driver’s seat of a silver Lexus parked nearby. He had two small children with him.
Both cars drove away. Officers followed them to an alley in the 9400 block of W. Bradley Road. Once the vehicles parked, police decided to try to arrest Harrison, who had gotten out of the car.
When they identified themselves as police, Harrison ran back to the Lexus, jumped into the driver’s seat and closed the door.
A small child was screaming from the backseat.
The three officers surrounded the Lexus, pointed their guns at Harrison and ordered him to get out.
As one of the officers tried to break the driver’s side window, Harrison put his hands up.
But instead of surrendering, he slammed the Lexus in drive and sped away.
At the same time, another group of officers had gone to Harrison’s apartment, where they saw a Chevy Tahoe linked to him pull away.
They followed it to the parking lot of Fond du Lac Food and Liquor. As they watched it, they saw Harrison run across the street to the SUV. He appeared to talk to the driver before walking away.
That’s when the officers decided to try to arrest him again, driving into the parking lot.
One officer jumped out of the vehicle, yelling: “Police, stop!”
Harrison ran, but the officer caught up to him and grabbed him. Several other officers helped take him into custody.
At the time, Harrison had three cellphones, a bag containing a digital scale and nearly $1,900 — all evidence of drug dealing, police said.
Questioned by police, he said he had just picked up his son from day care when he saw the flashing lights behind him.