Route 7 police chase ends in alleged death by suicide
MIDDLEBURY/BRANDON — After being pursued by police from Middlebury to Brandon early Tuesday morning, a 30-year-old Middlebury man crashed his car into a tree and apparently took his own life with a gun.
Travis Tester was sending messages to family members late Monday afternoon, around 3 p.m., saying that he was going to harm himself because of a failed relationship with a woman, Middlebury Police Chief Tom Hanley told the Independent. Police and family looked for Tester into night. By pinging his cell phone, police determined that Tester was constantly on the move around Chittenden and Addison counties.
Police alerted other departments to be on the lookout for Tester and his vehicle, and entered his information into the National Crime Information Center database to cast a broader net.
Tester’s “messages escalated through the evening expressing an intent to kill a certain person,” Hanley said. Police also were informed that he had a firearm, escalating the incident from a health-and-welfare check to an incident that could involve potential violence to others.
Shortly after midnight, Middlebury police learned the location of the intended target and went to the house. Middlebury officers requested assistance from Vermont State Police.
While Middlebury police were at the intended target’s house, Tester drove by in his car and refused to stop, Hanley recounted. State police and Middlebury police officers made efforts to follow and stop him, but Tester headed south on Route 7 with police in pursuit. The chase reached speeds of 65 mph, police said.
Authorities had called ahead to Brandon police, who threw down a spike strip across Route 7 near Cattails Restaurant to deflate the tires of Tester’s car. At about 1:12 a.m. Tester entered Brandon and his car did run over the spike strip, continued south a short distance, crossed the northbound lane and crashed into a tree.
When members of law enforcement approached the vehicle, they located Tester deceased in the driver’s seat with a handgun near his body in the vehicle. Hanley said Tester took his life prior to stopping the car.
Tester’s body was transported to the Chief Medical Examiner’s Office in Burlington for an autopsy to confirm the cause and manner of death. Police do not consider the case suspicious.
After the crash, Middlebury police returned to Middlebury to continue investigating and confirmed that no one else was injured back in town. Hanley met with all of his officers at 4 a.m. to debrief.
All Middlebury and state police officers returned to duty after the event and finished their assigned shifts and will return on their next scheduled shifts, police officials said.
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