The case of a Topeka woman accused of using a stolen car to intentionally hit and injure a Lawrence police officer will be heard by a jury, a judge ruled Wednesday morning.
Barbara Jo Schnegelsiepen, 27, faces eight felony and three misdemeanor charges for allegedly burglarizing two Lawrence homes Dec. 2 and then leading police on a lengthy and violent high-speed police chase, which went through rural areas west of Lawrence.
Tears fell from Lawrence Police Officer Doug Payne’s face as he recalled being struck by the fleeing car. Payne, testifying at Schnegelsiepen’s preliminary hearing, said the woman accelerated and drove directly at him as he stood on the south side of U.S. Highway 40, east of Big Springs. He said he was attempting to stop the fleeing car by placing stop sticks on the highway that would deflate the car’s tires.
“My initial thought was … that this was how I was supposed to die,” Payne said from the witness stand. “I’ve got family and two girls, and my only thought was to try to clear the front end of the vehicle, so I just by the grace of God was able to jump.”
Payne said his only choice was to jump into the center of the vehicle, which he estimates was traveling between 40 mph and 50 mph, fearing he would otherwise die or become a quadriplegic.
The officer was thrown into a grassy ditch. He was transported to Kansas University Hospital in Kansas City, Kan., where he was treated for his injuries and released the following day. Payne said he has lingering headaches, as well as neck, shoulder, lower back and right hip pain from being hit, and he may require surgery.
According to testimony from Lawrence Police Detective Sean Brown, Schnegelsiepen at one point during an interview said she thought she hit a sign on the shoulder of the road.
The suspect continued on and was eventually stopped after a police officer hit the car twice with his patrol car, those who testified said.
Schnegelsiepen is charged with two counts of aggravated battery on a law enforcement officer for allegedly hitting Payne and running one of two stolen vehicles used in the chase into the side of Lawrence Police Officer Hayden Fowler’s police cruiser.
In addition, prosecutors filed a charge of aggravated assault on a law enforcement officer for forcing a patrol car driven by Kansas Highway Patrol Lt. Kyle Moomau off the road. Moomau said the car was coming straight at him at about 80 mph.
“I didn’t want to get hit head on,” Moomau testified. “At that speed, it would be a serious accident.”
Douglas County District Court Judge Peggy Kittel determined enough evidence was presented during this week’s preliminary hearing for Schnegelsiepen to stand trial.
A jury trial was scheduled to begin March 30.