Audio: Macomb exec Hackel gets his man — and Slurpees

Holly Fournier
The Detroit News

Macomb County Executive Mark Hackel promised his niece and nephew he would pick up Slurpees Tuesday evening on his way home from an event.

That was before an alleged drunken driver traveling ahead of the former sheriff smashed into a minivan that was waiting to make a left-hand turn around 7:50 p.m. off 24 Mile onto Freda in Macomb Township.

Macomb County Executive Mark Hackel helped track down an alleged drunken driver on Tuesday night.

“He didn’t even hit the brakes, he just slammed into that minivan,” Hackel told The Detroit News on Friday morning. “Then he made a slight hesitation and just took off.”

The man was identified by sheriff’s officials as Vito Agrusa, a 41-year-old Shelby Township resident. He was arraigned on charges of operating while intoxicated and leaving the scene of a crash, Macomb County Sheriff’s Lt. John Michalke said.

He allegedly had a 0.23 BAC at the time of his arrest, which is almost three times the legal limit of 0.08. He has been released on a $2,000, 10 percent bond.

Hackel, who was on the phone with his father at the time of the crash, hung up and dialed 911. Law enforcement instincts kicked in and he pursued the hit-and-run driver east on 24 Mile.

Hackel said he decided to follow the suspect's 2010 Ford F150 pick up truck, instead of helping the occupants of the struck minivan, because there were several witnesses to the crash and a dispatcher informed him someone else already had called in to report the collision.

Two occupants, a woman and 14-year-old, received minor injuries and did not require hospitalization. A man in the vehicle was uninjured, Michalke said. The victims live on Freda, near the location of the crash.

As passersby tended to the crash victims, Hackel pursued the suspect through Macomb Township.

“I just witnessed a hit-and-run accident, I’m following the vehicle that just hit this car,” Hackel said in a 911 call released to The Detroit News. “This is Mark Hackel, the county executive.”

A dispatcher, who appeared to know Hackel, stayed on the line as he provided the vehicle’s license plate number and detailed updates of the crash and chase.

“I do believe he is intoxicated. I’m right behind (the car) right now, and I don’t think he knows that I’m following,” Hackel said in the call, which lasted around 7 minutes and 30 seconds. “I mean he blasted this car, I mean drilled this guy, and now is continuing on here.”

Prior to the crash, Hackel watched the car drive erratically along 24 Mile, he told the dispatcher.

“I saw the car swerving to the right and then crossing the center a couple times before and I kind of thought he was texting,” Hackel said. “Then he didn’t even hit his brakes, hit this car and drilled him.”

It appeared the suspect realized he was being followed as the two approached 24 Mile and Foss, according to Hackel’s 911 call.

“He’s going to try passing people ... I think he’s on to me right now, he’s leaning left to try to see if he can (pass other drivers),” Hackel said. “But there’s quite a few vehicles in front of him.”

The suspect then turned north onto Foss and stepped up efforts to escape.

“Now he’s flying,” Hackel said told dispatch. “He’s turning left into the township hall here, he’s turning left — nope, he just faked it. Yeah I think he knows I’m onto him.”

Vito Agrusa

The suspect instead pulled into the parking lot of a recreation park hosting an evening football event for children.

“He’s probably picking up some kids or something from football, or he’s avoiding the daylights out of me,” Hackel said.

The dispatcher then updated Hackel on officers’ approach to the scene.

“I don’t know if you’re going to confront him, Mark, be careful,” the dispatcher said. “We have officers on the way.”

Hackel can be heard in the recording exiting his vehicle and approaching the suspect.

“Come out of the car. Just stay over there for a second. Just stay there. Sit tight, sit tight,” Hackel said to the suspect.

Hackel told the dispatcher the suspect appeared “highly, highly intoxicated.”

“You drilled somebody, buddy,” Hackel said. “That was a bad move. You just drilled him, and then kept going.”

The suspect apparently recognized the county executive.

“He must have recognized me because he said, ‘Hey, Mark,’ ” Hackel told The News. “He was appealing to me to kind of look the other way and let this go.”

The man’s pleas are unintelligible on the 911 recording, but Hackel’s response was clear.

“Yeah, I can’t help you out,” Hackel said. “Man, do you know what you just did to that person? I don’t even know if they’re OK.”

But Hackel told The News he knew the man was “looking for help,” so he seized on his cooperative demeanor.

“It was pretty apparent that he wasn’t there to be confrontational,” Hackel said. “He was just looking for a way out.”

The county executive took the man’s car keys from the ignition and waited for law enforcement to arrive. Sheriff’s deputies arrived within minutes and “they took it from there,” Hackel said.

As for the county executive, he still had one mission to complete: Slurpees.

“I had to call the house and circle back to 7-Eleven and make good on that promise,” he said.

The incident didn’t feel out of the ordinary for Hackel, a former sheriff and police officer who never truly dropped his law-enforcement mentality.

“I still unlock people’s car doors, I’ve stopped in the middle of traffic and pushed people out of intersections, I’ve stopped at many accident scenes,” he said. “For me it’s simple: I’ve been doing police work since I was 18 years old. It’s just not a big deal because I’m used to this.”

“I just don’t have a police badge and lights and sirens anymore. And to be honest, I do miss that job immensely, especially being a sheriff,” Hackel said.

“I don’t know another word to say except I absolutely adored that job.”

Hackel’s pursuit and the suspect’s arrest came the day before sheriff’s officials took another alleged drunken driver off the streets, Michalke said.

A 30-year-old Romulus woman was arrested around midnight Wednesday after losing control of her vehicle on Interstate 94 near North River in Harrison Township. She allegedly caused a chain reaction crash involving six vehicles and at least two injuries.

The woman was hospitalized overnight and was jailed Friday awaiting felony charges, Michalke said. This was her third drunken driving offense.

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