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Police fire shots during chase through Platte City

by Ivan Foley
Landmark editor

A robbery of an antique store in Weston on Thursday led to a high speed chase of the suspect's vehicle through Platte City, with two officers firing shots during the chase.

Eventually, after a chase that included speeds believed to reach 100 mph and the fired bullets, the suspect, identified as Matthew R. Graham, 31, of Bonner Springs, Ks., was taken into custody by Platte City and Platte County officers at the junction of Hwy. N, Hwy. 152 and I-435.

Graham is charged with robbery in the first degree, a Class A felony. He is being held on $250,000 bond.

According to court records, Graham is accused of producing "what the victim believed to be a semi automatic handgun and took $1,870" in cash and a cordless phone from the victim before leaving Old Geezers Mantiques store in Weston.

The chase through Platte City occurred shortly before 3 p.m. Platte City Police Chief Bill Massock said his officers identified the suspect's vehicle eastbound on Hwy. 92 on the west end of Platte City.

One Platte City police car pulled behind the suspect's vehicle at that point and a second Platte City police car joined in at Second and Hwy. 92.

"They thought due to traffic congestion they had him boxed in by Marko's Pizza," Massock said.

Graham's vehicle went temporarily off the side of the highway, dragging a construction barrel under his vehicle and then continued east on Hwy. 92.

The chase continued to Prairie View Road and to Running Horse Road, and eventually back to Prairie View.

"Our officers knew Prairie View would dead end by the Williamsburg Apartments," Massock said.

As Graham's vehicle approached the dead end, his 2001 Chevy pickup left the road and soon went up a steep embankment near the end of the apartment complex. It is apparently here where two Platte City police officers fired shots at the suspect's vehicle in an attempt to end the pursuit.

"It appears the shots were fired when the background would have been a wooded area and an embankment," Massock said, expressing the belief officers felt there would be no danger to any potential bystanders by firing the shots.

After climbing the embankment, the suspect's vehicle got back to Running Horse Road, headed north, and then took I-29 southbound. He then got onto I-435 and exited at 120th St, which he took to N Hwy.

Platte County deputies set up "stop sticks" in the roadway, which helped in disabling the suspect's vehicle.

The suspect was taken into custody at the junction of Hwy. 152, N and I-435.

Graham was suffering from a minor wound to his right leg suffered when officers fired at his vehicle.

Massock said he believes 12 or 13 shots were fired by the officers. He said the suspect's vehicle was moving at the time officers fired.

Massock said the two officers who fired shots are performing administrative duties while an investigation into the shooting is ongoing.

"We were somewhat fortunate in that school had been out for a while, buses had already left the campus (along Hwy. 92) and fortunate that roads he took once he got off of Hwy. 92 were not heavily traveled," the police chief said.

The Platte County Sheriff's Department is conducting the investigation surrounding the shooting.

Shelle Browning, spokesperson for the sheriff's department, said no time frame has been set on completing the investigation.

"I know they're wanting to move on it as quickly as possible," she said.

A statement of probable cause filed by prosecutors in Platte County Circuit Court indicates a black and grey pellet gun, "identical looking to a real firearm," was found in the suspect's vehicle.

It is unclear the last time a Platte City police officer intentionally fired a shot while on duty. Massock said the department did not have records that would indicate if and/or when a local police officer had fired his weapon in the line of duty.

In 1998, a Platte City police officer had his gun accidentally discharge while he was cleaning the weapon in the department's headquarters, at that time located at the intersection of Second and Main Streets. No one was hurt when the bullet flew through the police department's front window, across Main Street and lodged into the fire department building across the street.