Historic Graves Damaged During Police Chase

Century-old cemetery damaged after suspect crashes into graves

By Tammy Mutasa
|  Tuesday, May 1, 2012  |  Updated 8:13 PM CDT
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A suspect in a police chase crashed into a cemetery on Saturn and Miller Roads in Garland on April 20, 2012. The Williams Family Foundation is working to repair the damages.

Tammy Mutasa, Garland Reporter

A suspect in a police chase crashed into a cemetery on Saturn and Miller Roads in Garland on April 20, 2012. The Williams Family Foundation is working to repair the damages.

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The graves in the Masonic Section of the Garland Mills Memorial Cemetery have withstood 100 years, but the markers couldn't withstand a police chase last month.

Garland police said the chase began just after 4:30 a.m. on April 20, when a resident reported a man stole his truck.

"An owner of a pickup actually flagged down one of our officers and said his truck, his pickup truck, had just been stolen," Garland police spokesman Officer Joe Harn said.

Police said Benjamin Thomas Strauch, 23, of Highland Village, refused to pull over. When he got to the T-intersection of Saturn and Miller roads, he failed to make the turn and crashed through the fence and into the cemetery.

"It's a great dishonor to the city, to the city citizens, and it's a great dishonor to the anyone who has family members buried here in this cemetery," Justin Williams said.

Williams' family has made it their mission to protect the cemetery.

"It's important to preserve this city's history, and this is where this city's history is," Williams said. "It's all here in this cemetery where all the founding fathers are buried."

Some of the gravestones that were ruined date back to the 1870s.

"To see something like that happen in the blink on an eye is just distressing," Whitney Williams said. "It's absolutely heartbreaking."

Police said the suspect would be responsible for the damage caused in the chase.

"The person responsible and will have to pay for that damage is the man that was running from the police that had stolen this pickup truck," Harn said.

No one was injured during the chase. Strauch was charged with unauthorized use of motor vehicle and evading police.

The Williamses are working to repair the graves. They say a barrier at the busy intersection is a start to protecting what matters.

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