Driver arrested after police say he refused to leave burning SUV in Westland, resisting officers

Mark Hicks
The Detroit News

One night last month, Westland police rushed to an unusual scene: an SUV endlessly turning “donuts” in the middle of an intersection before the vehicle burst into flames and the driver refused to exit, police said.

Moments later, the SUV was aflame, and officers had to pull the resisting driver out, which saved his life but led to an arrest, said investigators, who on Thursday released dashcam video of the incident.

The incident unfolded about 12:45 a.m. June 21 near of Ford and Venoy roads, where a 43-year-old man’s blue Chevrolet Traverse circled in reverse with the air bags covering the windows.

Officers initially thought the driver, a Livonia resident, was unconscious but noticed him smiling at them and holding the steering wheel, police said.

Dashcam footage showed the vehicle stopping with smoke pouring from the hood, then bright flames erupting.

Officers approached and told him to get out, but the driver was heard telling them: “I’m not getting out. … I’m going to the hospital.”

As the blaze grew, officers tried to remove the man, but he struggled and “produced a razor blade knife and held it toward the officers that were attempting to assist him,” police said.

The officers were heard ordering the man to drop the weapon. He eventually did but locked his arms around the steering wheel, investigators reported.

At least three officers then pulled the man from the SUV and onto the ground, where they handcuffed him, according to the video footage.

The driver was heard asking for firemen, who had by then responded and were gathered around the SUV. He was arrested on suspicion of being under the influence of a controlled substance and driving on a suspended license.

“After the driver was restrained officers spoke with him and determined that there was sufficient evidence to place him under arrest for operating a vehicle while under the influence of a controlled substance, and for driving on a suspended license,” police said Thursday.  

The driver was taken to Garden City Hospital to be checked for injuries and released back into police custody.  

He has since been released from custody pending the results of a blood test, police said Thursday. The man has not been arraigned.