Man charged in Grand Haven chase, house crash

Becky Vargo • Mar 27, 2019 at 7:00 AM

A Muskegon Heights man with a lengthy criminal history is back behind bars following his arraignment on the charges filed after he fled police and crashed into a house on Grand Haven’s east side.

Hank William Jones, 69, whose birthday was Tuesday, suffered serious injuries in the crash, which happened near the intersection of Griffin Street and Washington Avenue at about 7:30 p.m. Friday.

After being extricated from his upside-down, smashed car, he was taken to Hackley Hospital in Muskegon. Jones was released from the hospital Sunday and taken straight to the Ottawa County Jail.

Jones was arraigned Monday on charges of third-offense drunken driving, second-offense driving on a suspended license, second-offense fleeing and eluding police, and fourth-offense habitual offender. Ottawa County District Judge Craig Bunce set his bond at $75,000.

A preliminary examination in District Court is set for April 16.

According to Michigan Department of Corrections records, Jones was released from prison March 11 after serving about nine years of a sentence of 4-30 years for operating intoxicated, third offense. He started his sentence on that Muskegon County charge in July 2010.

State prison records show that Jones first went to prison for stealing a car in 1966 and was released in 1970. He has also been imprisoned at different times for felonious assault, larceny from a motor vehicle, unarmed robbery, aggravated domestic violence, breaking and entering with intent to steal, retail fraud, fleeing police, and operating while impaired.

Jones’ Christmas Day 1985 offense was a prison escape.

While most of his criminal record is from Muskegon County, Jones has also committed offenses in Kent, Ottawa and Jackson counties.

His Ottawa County criminal record includes a 1991 conviction for driving on a suspended license and unlawful use of a license plate, and a 1994 domestic violence case out of Spring Lake Township.

The incident this past Friday evening began when some young women who were taking pictures on the Third Street Bridge in Grand Haven flagged down a police officer after Jones stopped his vehicle on the bridge and continuously stared at them.

Sgt. Mike Ercole of the Grand Haven Department of Public Safety stopped the suspect’s vehicle on Third Street, just east of the bridge. When the man asked why he was being stopped, Ercole told him it was for driving 5 mph down the middle of the road, said Capt. Clint Holt of the Grand Haven department.

The officer smelled alcohol and marijuana on the suspect, and was trying to get the man to step out of the car for sobriety tests. That’s when the man said, “I’m about to do 40 (mph),” Holt said.

Jones, driving a recently purchased 2003 Lincoln LS, sped onto Harbor Island and turned left into a gravel parking area, Holt said. Ercole immediately called for backup and jockeyed his police vehicle around, trying to keep Jones inside the lot, but the suspect got around him, went back across the Third Street Bridge and onto Jackson Street.

Grand Haven officers pursued the vehicle west on Jackson. Holt, who watched dashcam video of the incident, said the suspect had to swerve around another police car, but caught a clear road and a green light at both the Beacon Boulevard and Ferry Street intersections.

“He got lucky,” Holt said. “Thank goodness it was green. He didn’t really have to go around people. It was a straight shot.”

The suspect car continued to gain speed as it traveled east to Griffin Street.

“After the curve onto Griffin Street, he took off,” Holt said. That’s when the officer terminated the pursuit.

Holt said that, based on experience, and from the amount of damage to the suspect’s car, the vehicle was traveling in excess of 75 mph when the driver lost control of it in the area of Fulton and Columbus avenues, went off the road, tumbled, and crashed into the house. The mangled car landed on its roof and the vehicle caught on fire.

“There were 2- to 3-foot flames,” Holt said. “Officers Justin Canan and Curt Dilley used extinguishers. Those officers saved (the suspect’s) life.”

Police said Jones was pinned inside his upside-down for about a half-hour before being removed from it by firefighters. He was wearing a seat belt, Holt said.

The shaken homeowner said he had just been on the side porch moments before it was taken out in the crash. 

Nobody in the house was injured.

Holt said he went inside the house and helped the homeowner clean up glass from the broken windows. Otherwise, the damage was contained to the enclosed porch.

Jones had purchased the car from a lot in Muskegon Heights, Holt said. He would have had to purchase, at least temporarily, vehicle insurance, the captain noted. When employees from the business took the registration information to the Secretary of State’s office, they found out — based on his criminal record — that Jones could not have a car. By then, he was long gone, Holt said. 

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