After fleeing from law enforcement officers over an estimated 20-mile stretch of highway, Justin Battenfield, 34, of Van Buren died as his vehicle left the roadway in a crash along the 72-hundred block of Arkansas Highway 255 in Fort Smith earlier today. An Arkansas State Police patrol car was involved in the crash leaving one trooper injured.
At approximately 6:30 AM, an officer of the U.S. Forest Service initiated a pursuit of a southbound vehicle on U.S. Highway 71. The officer had reportedly witnessed the vehicle fail to stop for a traffic signal and pass through the intersection along the highway shoulder.
As a Sebastian County sheriff’s deputy joined the pursuit, Battenfield reversed direction, traveling northbound along U.S. 71 where state troopers took the lead in the pursuit north of the Witcherville community.
Moments before 7 AM Battenfield, still fleeing from federal, state, and county law enforcement officers, turned his vehicle eastbound onto Arkansas Highway 255 where he encountered an Arkansas State Trooper who attempted to stop the vehicle by means of a Precision Immobilization Technique. The maneuver led to the trooper’s patrol car and Battenfield’s vehicle leaving the roadway and overturning, right across from a coronavirus testing center. Staff at the location ran to the crash to help.
The trooper has been hospitalized in Little Rock with non-life threatening injuries.
Police have not said why they think the victim fled from police in the first place for such a minor infraction.
The Arkansas State Police Highway Patrol Division and Special Agents of the Criminal Investigation Division are continuing their investigation.