A Wauconda police squad car carrying a police canine was struck head-on by a repeat drunk driving offender on Route 12 in Wauconda early Sunday morning, causing the officer to sustain injuries.
Wauconda Police Department Sgt. Heather Cognac said Officer Jon Finze and his canine partner, Badger, were searching for a wrong-way driver on Route 12 around 1:33 a.m. Sunday.
Finze observed a silver 2016 Nissan sedan traveling northbound in the southbound lanes of Route 12 just north of Route 176 in Wauconda.
Finze activated his emergency lights while driving parallel in the northbound lanes and attempted to signal the driver to stop, but the driver continued northbound in the wrong lanes of traffic.
Cognac said that Finze witnessed two vehicles traveling southbound that passed the Nissan and the officer heard the sound of a vehicle horn.
Finze could see three more cars in the distance traveling southbound and he was concerned about a head-on collision, Cognac said.
The officer entered the left turn lane at Cook Street and partially blocked the southbound lanes of traffic in an attempt to stop the oncoming Nissan.
The Nissan was still not stopping despite Finze being positioned near the intersection with his emergency lights activated for more than 20 seconds.
Finze attempted to reposition his squad but was struck head-on.
Finze got out of his car and approached the Nissan where he saw the driver pressing on the accelerator and manipulating the gear shift in an attempt to flee the crash scene, Cognac said.
The uninjured driver, identified as Anthony D. Smith, 46, of the 2300 block of Goldenrod Way in Wauconda, was taken into custody without further incident.
Finze sustained minor injuries and his canine partner, Badger, will be evaluated.
Smith has at least three prior charges for driving under the influence of alcohol and his license was revoked for driving under the influence at the time of the Sunday incident.
“The fact that this driver was not in custody and was driving a vehicle is another epic failure on the part of our criminal justice system,” Wauconda Police Chief David Wermes said.
“Thankfully, no one was seriously injured in this incident but the outcome could have been deadly,” Wermes added.
Smith was charged with two counts of aggravated driving under the influence, two counts of driving under the influence, criminal damage to state-supported property, failure to yield to an authorized emergency vehicle, failure to reduce speed to avoid a crash, operating an uninsured motor vehicle and driving in the wrong lane.
Smith remains held at the Lake County Jail pending an initial bond hearing.