PAW PAW — When he was elected three years ago, Van Buren County Sheriff Daniel Abbott pledged to be a “working sheriff.”
Abbott made good on his word in August when he chased down and caught an armed man, accused of multiple felonies.
The sheriff’s quick actions caught the attention of the producers of A&E’s popular crime show “Live PD,” who plan to feature Abbott on an upcoming episode.
“The pursuit I was involved in in August went viral and they saw it,” Abbott said. “I was humbled and honored. I never do my job for recognition, so it’s an honor when someone wants to put you in the spotlight for a job well done.”
“Live PD,” which airs at 9 p.m. on Fridays and Saturdays, showcases urban and rural police forces at work on a typical Friday and Saturday night.
The upcoming episode featuring Abbott will focus on his involvement in successfully tracking down a South Haven man, who was being pursued by several police units after allegedly assaulting his girlfriend, starting her car on fire, fleeing from police, pointing a gun at an individual in a gas station and then pointing a gun at police.
The incident unfolded in the early morning hours of Aug. 16 in Bangor when James Ochoa-Rodriguez, 32, allegedly assaulted his girlfriend, started her van on fire, and then fled the scene. Bangor Police responded and notified law enforcement agencies throughout Van Buren County. Later that morning, South Haven Police were called to a local gas station where witnesses told them Ochoa-Rodriguez had pointed a firearm at someone.
Police officers tracked the suspect’s vehicle and tried to stop it, however Ochoa-Rodriguez accelerated the vehicle and a pursuit ensued on M-43 Highway. Van Buren County Sheriff’s Department then took over the pursuit, but were initially unable to stop the suspect vehicle.
As the pursuit continued, Ochoa-Rodriguez allegedly called his girlfriend and told her he was going to return and make police shoot him in front of her.
It was then that Abbott took the lead in his vehicle and used a pursuit intervention technique maneuver to hit the back side of the suspect’s SUV and knock it into a roadside ditch. Police dashcam video captured Abbott’s successful effort at stopping the SUV. But the effort almost went awry when officers surrounded the vehicle and the suspect tried to get away once again by stepping on the accelerator in an effort to get out of the ditch. Police ended up having to use force to get him out of the vehicle and arrest him.
For Abbott, the potentially deadly pursuit was all in a day’s work.
“I think you have to lead by example,” he said. “You need to work with all the divisions so you can stay connected with what is going on as well as being able to walk in their shoes. I truly feel by working the road at times, I not only stay connected with the deputies, but the community as well.”
Ochoa-Rodriguez was initially arraigned in Seventh District Court but has since been bound over to Van Buren Circuit Court on felony charges of fleeing a police officer third degree, assault with intent to do great bodily harm less than murder and domestic violence. He is scheduled for a pre-trial hearing Dec. 6.