A Genesee Street teen is accused of stealing a police car after a man led a police officer on a chase then escaped after a scuffle, police said.
Samantha J. Danley, 16, made off with the cruiser after a routine traffic stop, police said. The man, who was driving the car, is wanted for resisting arrest and assaulting the officer and was still at large.
Officer Kevin Lucinski stopped the car, with improper plates, just after 2 a.m. on Gooding Street near Clinton Street, where the driver fled on foot, police said.
Chief of Detectives Capt. Lawrence Eggert said that near Grand Street, Lucinski caught the driver, who "scratched the officer pretty good and punched him in the head several times."
"The officer maced [the driver], but he went over a stockade fence at Lock Street and escaped," Eggert added.
However, Lucinski, who was alone in his squad car, was unaware that Danley was in the car he pulled over.
"[Lucinski] came back for his car, and it was gone," Eggert said.
Police said Danley, who drove away in the cruiser, told detectives she took the car because "she was afraid." About a half-mile away, at Pine and Walnut streets, the car was abandoned in the parking lot of Molinaro's restaurant, Eggert added. The car, which was left in gear, struck the restaurant porch, rolled down a hill across Walnut Street, jumped the curb and crashed into an overhead door at Expert Tire on Walnut Street. Damage was put at $3,000 to the door, and the squad car's front end also was damaged, Eggert said.
Eggert said Lucinski, a new officer, did nothing wrong.
"Usually the first person responding to the scene pulls the keys, but this all happened so fast. The passenger was a small girl, so he didn't see her," Eggert said.
Officers were able to trace the girl's footprints in the snow to her home. Danley was charged with driving without a license, felony second-degree criminal mischief, felony third-degree possession of a weapon (for driving a police car that contained a high-powered rifle) and unauthorized use of a vehicle.
Lucinski was treated in Lockport Memorial Hospital for a large cut inside his mouth, severe scratches on his face, as well as bruising and redness.
The driver, identified only as a recent parolee, was still being sought.