A Hodgenville City Police officer died early Sunday of injuries sustained in a crash.
Officer Mark Taulbee, 43, of Hodgenville, had been dispatched to the scene of a possible attempted break-in of an apartment on East High Street about 3 a.m., according to Mayor Terry Cruse.
It’s unclear what led to Taulbee’s pursuit of a silver Nissan Altima allegedly driven by Jason Avis, 29, of Hodgenville.
Cruse said a woman called dispatch asking for someone to check on the residence. She claimed a man was breaking the door in “to get his stuff.”
“We’d had a couple of prior calls to that residence,” said Cruse.
The woman was not at the apartment, saying she was going to a relative’s house in Breckinridge County, according to Cruse.
Police Chief Steve Johnson said the door to the apartment was not broken in “but evidently (the suspect) was there or Mark saw him leaving.”
Avis did not have permission to be driving the vehicle which was registered to another woman, according to KSP.
Taulbee radioed that he was in pursuit of the vehicle.
Taylor County Sheriff’s Department was notified to assist at 3:15 a.m., according to 911 records. Taulbee did not communicate with dispatch after 3:17 a.m.
According to Kentucky State Police, the vehicles were eastbound on Ky. 210 near the intersection of Ky. 470 when Taulbee lost control of his cruiser.
The cruiser rotated clockwise, left the roadway on the eastbound side, struck an earth embankment on the driver’s side, went airborne and came to final rest in a ditch facing northwest. Taulbee, who was wearing a seatbelt, was ejected from the vehicle.
Taulbee was treated for injuries at the scene by LaRue County EMS. He was transported to Hardin Memorial Hospital and flown to University Hospital in Louisville. According to KSP, he died just before 6:30 a.m.
Buffalo and LaRue County firefighters assisted with traffic control.
Avis continued driving from the scene of the crash, according to KSP. He later turned himself in at the LaRue County Jail before 9 a.m. He is charged with first-degree wanton endangerment, first-degree fleeing and evading police. Other charges may be forthcoming.
Bond was set at $25,000 cash. District Judge C. Derek Reed declined to release Avis on his own recognizance due to his previous record.
Avis has a long history with the court system. In 2003, he was charged with escape after walking away from a work release assignment in LaRue County; in 2008 he was found guilty of intimidating a participant in a legal process, assault, fraudulent use of credit cards, terroristic threatening and reckless driving in Hardin County.
Other charges were DUI in 2006; assault and criminal trespassing in 2003; and complicity to theft by unlawful taking, complicity to burglary and complicity to criminal mischief in 2001, in Hardin County.
KSP Post 4 Detective Terry Whittaker is the reconstructionist conducting the ongoing investigation. He is trying to determine if the vehicles collided prior to the crash, the speed involved and other factors, according to Johnson.
First responders working the scene said Taulbee’s seatbelt was ripped and car parts were strewn about 500-feet along the roadway.
Taulbee had been with Hodgenville City Police about 13 months, according to Cruse. Before that, he was a chief deputy sheriff in Butler County and an officer at Morgantown.
“Mark was a very meticulous, very precise fellow,” said Cruse. “He was pretty much a by-the-book guy. He was pleasant to deal with and I never had a cross word with him. He did his job – he was kind of quiet.”
He is survived by his children, Audra, 20, and Austin, 17.
The funeral is at noon Friday, Sept. 21, 2012, at the Hodgenville City Hall-Civic Center, 200 South Lincoln Blvd., Hodgenville, with Rev. Arnold Moon officiating. Burial will be at the Taulbee Family Cemetery in Cecilia.
Visitation is 3-8 p.m. Thursday and 9 a.m.-noon Friday at the Hodgenville City Hall-Civic Center in Hodgenville.
Manakee Funeral Home in Elizabethtown is handling arrangements.
Johnson, who has been with the department 35 years, said Taulbee is the first officer they’ve lost in the line of duty.
Several other departments including Elizabethtown and Hopkinsville offered to send officers to cover the city during the funeral and viewing – or in the event Taulbee’s co-workers asked for some days off, said Johnson.
Kentucky State Police also has offered additional assistance.
“I really appreciate their cooperation and offers of help,” he said.