Central Campus was shaken Monday morning by a high-speed chase involving officers of the Ames and Iowa State police departments and a lone lawn care truck driven by Tyler Comstock, 19, of Boone, Iowa. 

Comstock had been arguing with his father before leaving a work site at 2007 Melrose Ave. in Ames by way of a truck stolen from Spring-Green Lawn Care Services, according to his mother, Shari Comstock, of Hamburg, Iowa.

Geoff Huff, investigation commander for the Ames Police Department, released a statement on Tuesday stating that he would not release the dashboard video of police vehicles or audio dispatches due to the ongoing investigation. However, the Des Moines Register obtained the recording from Broadcastify. 

"I have a citizen who has a Spring-Green truck with a trailer who reports his 19-year-old son just stole the truck and that it’s headed south on Grand. They were working together, son got mad at his dad, and hopped in the truck and just took off," said an Ames police dispatcher on the audio recording. This was in response to James Comstock, Tyler's father, who had reported the truck stolen.

Upon locating the vehicle, Ames police attempted a traffic stop after they identified the vehicle by its license plate on the attached trailer.

"The vehicle's not stopping, we are westbound on South 4th Street coming up to Beach," said an Ames officer on the recording while in pursuit.

The chase continued as officers from ISU Police Department joined the effort.

According to the Ames Police Department's Pursuit of Motor Vehicles policy, "No more than one secondary unit shall become actively involved in a pursuit unless specifically directed otherwise by the on-duty shift supervisor; the involvement of more than two patrol vehicles may add to the hazards of the pursuit."

On Monday, Cmdr. Huff stated that six to seven vehicles were involved in the chase.

The policy also states that "pursuing officers shall continually evaluate whether or not the seriousness of the offense justifies continuing the pursuit," as well as that "pursuing officers should remember that abandoning a pursuit may be the most prudent course of action."

As Comstock turned onto Beach Avenue and toward campus, he backed the truck's attached trailer onto a police car and severed the hitch, sending the trailer onto the sidewalk near Richardson Court.

Huff said on Monday that at this point, pedestrians had to jump out of the way.

"Southbound on Wallace," said an officer on the recording while in pursuit.

"West on Union," said another.

Comstock continued to lead police the wrong way down Morrill Road until darting into the grass of Central Campus, crashing through a homecoming banner, losing control and then crashing into a tree across from Mackay Hall.

At one point during the pursuit, a dispatcher in the recording said, "We know the suspect, so we can probably back it off."

According to the Ames Police Department's policies, a pursuit can be terminated "when the suspect's identity has been established to the point that later apprehension can be accomplished."

The chase was not abandoned.

After Comstock was stopped in front of Mackay Hall, officers began to exit their vehicles and approach the truck.

Sidearms drawn, officers of Ames and Iowa State police departments demanded Comstock exit the vehicle, but he continued to rev the engine.

Officers shouted a second order to exit the vehicle, and then shots were fired.

Huff said six .40 caliber rounds were fired from a regulation SIG Sauer handgun carried by Officer Adam McPherson, who has served the Ames Police Department for over eight years.

Comstock was taken to Mary Greeley Medical Center at roughly 10:45 a.m., half an hour after the chase had begun. He was later pronounced dead.

According to Dr. Julia Goodin, chief state medical examiner who performed the autopsy on Comstock, the manner of death is classified as a homicide.

"Homicide for us generally means that somebody died due to the actions of another person," Goodin said.

Of the six rounds that were fired, two entered Comstock's body, one to the head and one to the chest. 

The investigation is still underway.

(2) comments

Ben Linn
Benjamin Linn

I wasn't at the scene, I only have a vague sense of the situation from what I've read from articles on Iowa State Daily, but it is shocking to me that a 17-year-old boy can be shot dead because he "revved the engine" after driving recklessly... The truck was stopped... Also why were there six police cars chasing after him on a busy campus when they knew exactly who he was? This seems very wrong to me.

David Jackson
David Jackson

@ Benjamin Linn

He was 19 years old, and at that age is no boy. Also, a pickup truck qualifies as a deadly weapon if purposely driven at people or, objects containing people, with the intent to hit them.

Unless people witnessed the truck hit the tree and get pinned by the cop cars(s) AND also see that the truck made no attempt to move or was spinning its tires with no effect whatsoever, he was still an active threat to the police and more importantly pedestrians. That truck outweighs the patrol cars, unless otherwise disabled he would have been able to wedge it free and continue ramming homecoming displays and potentially running down people.

Tasers and pepper spray do not penetrate auto glass making them ineffectual against someone in a car. An expandable baton or nightstick could have been used IF and only if the officer was willing to risk their life by getting close enough to the running vehicle to smash out a window, and then attempting to engage the guy with a taser, baton, pepper spray, or hand to hand. Would you risk your life for someone who had already risked killing multiple innocent people? That’s not their job.

The guy drove onto campus after ramming a cop he stopped for on Beach Ave, he was not chased onto campus. Thus he had proved willing to use potentially deadly force to escape and had driven onto campus at a high rate of speed. He was a demonstrated threat to everyone on campus. He was already evading the police from just off campus, how far would he have gone before slowing down even if they had backed off the chase? Now weigh that against stopping him as soon as possible. There is risk either way, in a split second, make the right call without the aid of hindsight. What would you be saying right now if they didn’t pursue him onto campus and he ran over some student(s) in the heat of the moment?

There are instances of overzealous, under-trained, hothead cops using excessive force, both lethal and less than lethal, everyday across this country. Given what has come to light so far about this incident, this isn’t one of them. Until some other information shows otherwise, they did their job with no loss of innocent life. Even if it is tragic for the guy's family. I am not a bias supporter of the ISU or Ames PD by any stretch of the imagination given several other observations of their modus operandi. But the only criticism of what happened yesterday I have read so far has been by people who are so ignorant of reality they can't see deadly force ever being necessary, or who fail to see a truck as a potentially deadly weapon.

Bottom line is this: If the vehicle was disabled, and the cop knew it was disabled before he shot the guy, he used excessive force. If the vehicle was not disabled, or was but there was no reasonable way for the cop to know that at the time, he used the force necessary to stop a deadly threat before innocent lives were lost. Period.

Maybe in the end the facts will arise that prove the cop shot when he didn’t have to, but all the information we have seen so far, from multiple sources, show nothing to support that.

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