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Suspect in pursuit that killed 19-year-old Vt. officer pleads not guilty

The suspect’s truck crossed the center line during a pursuit and collided head-on with a cruiser driven by Officer Jessica Ebbighausen


Rutland City Police

Associated Press

RUTLAND, Vt. — A Vermont man accused of killing a 19-year-old police officer during a pursuit last week told investigators he didn’t pull over before the fatal crash because getting arrested would hurt his chances of joining the Marines, according to court documents released Monday.

Tate Rheaume, 20, pleaded not guilty Monday to charges of negligent operation of a motor vehicle and attempting to elude police, both with death resulting.

His attorney argued Rheaume should be released without bail and supervised by his sister, and that he wasn’t a flight risk given his strong family ties to the area and lack of a criminal record. But a judge ordered him held on $100,000 bail, agreeing with prosecutors that Rheaume’s behavior — namely fleeing from police — necessitated a high bail amount.

According to police, Rheaume was being pursued by officers Friday afternoon when his pickup truck crossed the center line and collided head-on with a cruiser driven by Rutland City Police Officer Jessica Ebbighausen. Ebbighausen, who was not wearing a seatbelt and was thrown from the cruiser, was pronounced dead at the scene.

The suspect’s truck also hit another police cruiser. Two other officers and Rheaume were injured.

According to a police affidavit, the pursuit started after Rheaume broke into the home of an ex-girlfriend with whom he has two children. Concerned about his mental state, she had taken the children to her grandmother’s house, but her boyfriend called police after seeing security camera footage of Rheaume at their home.

“Mr. Rheaume said that he didn’t want to get in trouble so when the police tried to stop him, he didn’t stop,” State Police Sgt. Jay Riggen wrote. “Mr. Rheaume said that he had ambitions to get into the Marine Corps and believed than an arrest for this offense would hurt this ambition.”

Rheaume also said he takes multiple prescriptions and had used cannabis that day, and described his sense of impairment at the time of the crash as a seven or eight on a scale of one to 10, Riggen said.

Police believe one suspect, who is in custody, was responsible for all of the attacks
“Little did [the suspect] know that he had a deputy who wasn’t gonna go down so easily,” Chief Neil Noakes said
The man, suspected of grand theft auto, eventually surrendered and was taken into custody
“It’s a testament to the great work our law enforcement partners have done in thwarting what was obviously, to me and to us, a direct threat to the students of University Prep,” Chief Larry Scirotto said