A Vermont police officer, aged 19, died in a crash with a burglary suspect she was chasing

Posted at 11:42 AM, Jul 09, 2023

RUTLAND, Vt. (AP) — A Vermont police officer was killed and two other officers were injured when a burglary suspect crashed into two police cruisers pursuing him, Vermont State Police said.

Rutland City Police Officer Jessica Ebbighausen, 19, was killed on Friday afternoon. The crash happened as police chased a vehicle driven by Tate Rheaume, 20, a suspect in an attempted break-in at a house, state police said.

Evidence indicates that Rheaume crossed the centerline and collided head-on with the Ebbighausen's cruiser, police said. The suspect's truck also hit another police cruiser.

Ebbighausen was pronounced dead at the scene. Two other officers and Rheaume were taken to Rutland Regional Medical Center for what are believed to be non-life-threatening injuries, police said. Rheaume was transferred to the University of Vermont Medical Center in Burlington.

State police said they are investigating the role impairment and speed played in the crash and are working with the Rutland County state's attorney on potential charges. It was not immediately known if Rheaume is being represented by an attorney.

Ebbighausen, of Ira, Vermont, started working with the Rutland Police Department in May as a part-time officer, state police said. She was scheduled to start training in August at the Vermont Police Academy to become a full-time officer, police said.

“We’re hurting right now,” said Rutland City Police Chief Brian Kilcullen on Friday as he asked for community support, according to the Rutland Herald.

Ebbighausen had wanted to be a police officer since she was 9 years old, Kilcullen said. She did an internship with the police department during high school, he said.

“She always had a smile on her face,” Kilcullen said. “We were looking forward to having her as part of our family.”

The department had recently changed its policies to discourage high-speed pursuits, he said, but did not discuss the changes further on Friday, the newspaper reported.

“I’m here today to mourn, really, the loss of a family member,” he said. “The state police are conducting the investigation. At some point, we’ll review everything.”

Before Ebbighausen’s death, 28 Vermont officers had died in the line of duty, including 2 in vehicle pursuits, according to the Officer Down Memorial Page, which tracks law enforcement deaths. Of those Vermont officers whose ages are listed, she was by far the youngest.