By Miles Maguire
A routine traffic stop that turned into a potentially deadly encounter between two Oshkosh police officers and a driver who tried to use her car as a lethal weapon has led to a 10-year sentence for a former Boyd Street resident.
Caitlyn Nicole Heinz, 28, pleaded guilty in February to two counts of recklessly endangering safety, eluding an officer and causing a hit-and-run injury. Her sentence was finalized Sept. 5 with a modification to one of the overlapping terms she had received.
The April 2018 incident began when an Oshkosh police officer working radar clocked a car going 42 in a 30 mph zone near South Main Street and West 16th Avenue, according to the criminal complaint.
After executing a traffic stop, the officer was unable to identify the driver, who “appeared to be giving false information,” and he asked for backup. A second policeman arrived, who questioned Heinz further before the two officers decided that they would need to remove her from the vehicle.
As one officer tried to unlock the car’s door, the driver became “verbally combative” and grabbed for the transmission gear lever and “placed it all the way into drive,” police said.
The officers reached into the car, and Heinz “then accelerated quickly at a high rate of speed” with both policemen still inside.
One officer was able to disentangle himself within 15 feet and landed on the ground. But the other officer said he “ended up with my back against the steering wheel” using one hand to try to control the gear shift and “the other attempting to combat the female driver.”
At this point Heinz “latched onto my middle right finger with her mouth as I was yelling at her to stop, and she continued to bite even harder, moving her head back and forth as if she was trying to bite off the top of my middle right finger,” the officer said.
The driver put the car into reverse and drove it towards the other officer. The first officer was still in the car, with his back to the front windshield, which he struck and broke with his head as the car lurched around in a circle, according to court papers.
The second officer was able to dodge the car the first time, but as it circled around a second time he was struck by the driver’s side door, which was still open. Heinz continued to reverse until she hit a house on the east side of Doty Street, police said
“At that point things seemed to be slightly fuzzy,” the first officer said. The second officer then drew his firearm but realized he could not shoot at Heinz with his fellow officer still in the car. He ran up to Heinz’s vehicle, which she then floored, reaching an estimated speed of 30 to 40 mph, while she drove back across Doty Street until she struck the porch of a house on the other side, according to court records.
After she hit the first house, Heinz stopped biting the officer who was in the car with her. He was able to punch her in the face several times but when she accelerated, he “ended up physically flying back into the backseat of the vehicle,” he said. “I was actually almost upside down when we had finally come to a stop.” At that point the car had blown several tires, according to the criminal complaint.
Heinz ran from the scene but was caught by other officers after a short chase.
Judge Teresa Basiliere heard the case with Adam Levin as the prosecutor of record and Brianne Patzer and Kristina Sanders-Brown representing Heinz.
In a case that dated from January, Britani L. French was charged with selling as heroin a substance that police said turned out to be No-Doz. She was also accused of possession of drug paraphernalia and of stealing $300 from an undercover drug buyer, charges that were dismissed but read into the record.
In a July case she was in contact with a police informant who told authorities French made daily trips to Milwaukee as part of an ongoing drug trade. After a period of surveillance she was pulled over in a traffic stop near the corner of 5th Avenue and Ohio Street, according to a criminal complaint. After she told police she had “crotched” some heroin and would retrieve it, she was taken downtown to the Public Safety Building.
There she pulled a “once-folded piece of paper with residue and a plastic bag … from [her] front underwear area,” police said. “In addition, the defendant turned over two syringes, a blue tie-off and a metal tin cup that she had secured in her bra,” according to court documents.
Police said they conducted a “consent search” of French’s apartment on West Packer Avenue. They found “a plastic laundry container of used syringes, multiple brown bags of tie-offs, cotton balls, tin cups, syringes and alcohol pads,” according to the court records.
In this case French pleaded no contest to a charge of delivering heroin and had a bail jumping charge dismissed but read into the record.
Both cases were heard by Judge Scott Woldt. Anthony Prekop represented the state, and the defense lawyer was Steven Smits.