DECATUR — Less than two months after he was sworn in, Macon County Sheriff Howard Buffett was involved in the police chase that ended in a rollover crash in downtown Decatur on Tuesday.
Lt. Jamie Belcher said Buffett was driving one of the squad cars that pursued a white Chevrolet vehicle that had a person wanted by the sheriff’s office on a felony warrant Tuesday evening.
Emmanuel Dunklin, 33, was arrested at the scene Tuesday night. Belcher said Dunklin was the driver of the vehicle, and faces preliminary charges of driving under the influence of drugs, operating an uninsured motor vehicle and failure to stop at a traffic signal.
A 32-year-old woman who was a passenger in the Chevrolet was also arrested at the scene, Belcher said. She faces a preliminary charge of possession of stolen property.
Preliminary charges are subject to review by the Macon County State’s Attorney’s Office.
Belcher said the man wanted on the felony warrant was still in a local hospital Thursday and had not been arrested yet. He suffered a broken pelvis as a result of the crash, Belcher said.
The pursuit began at about 6:30 p.m. at the intersection of South Main Street and 1st Drive after Buffett turned on his lights and attempted to initiate a traffic stop, Belcher said.
The driver fled north on North Franklin Street. The fleeing vehicle ran a red light at the intersection of Franklin and East William Street and was T-boned by a vehicle that had the right-of-way on William, Belcher said.
The crash's impact caused the Chevrolet to roll over onto its side. Dunklin attempted to flee from the scene, but was stopped by sheriff’s deputies and taken into custody, Belcher said. The woman who drove the other vehicle was transported to a local hospital with injuries not considered to be life-threatening, Belcher said.
Belcher said a detective with the sheriff's office was riding with Buffett during the pursuit.
“Every now and then, the sheriff does his own patrol,” Belcher said. “He does so just to check in and see how things are going in the field.”
Belcher said that former Sheriff Thomas Schneider was also known for going on patrol in a sheriff’s office squad car. Buffett was not available for comment Thursday night.
The Illinois State Police is investigating the crash, which Belcher said is standard protocol for any crash that involves a vehicle being pursued by the sheriff's office.
Buffett, 62, was sworn in as sheriff Sept. 15 after Schneider announced his resignation, citing stress and health reasons. He had volunteered as an unpaid auxiliary deputy sheriff for the department for five years, and the sheriff’s office said in September that Buffett had completed 3,300 hours of patrol training.
Schneider said he appointed Buffett because he did not want to create an unfair advantage for any of the three sheriff's lieutenants who have announced that they plan to run for the office in the November 2018 election.
The son of multi-billionaire investor Warren Buffett, Howard Buffett came to Decatur in the 1990s to work for Archer Daniels Midland Co. His foundation has donated millions of dollars to Decatur-area projects, including to the sheriff’s office, and has continued to make donations since he became sheriff.
Dunklin was held in the Macon County Jail on Thursday, and is due for arraignment on Dec. 1.
Editor's note: This story has been updated to correct the preliminary charge of DUI that Emmanuel Dunklin is facing.