A Madison teen who was driving the car that crashed and killed two other teens while fleeing police on Jan. 9, 2020 was recently sentenced to 16 years in prison.
Blake S. Coombs, 19, of Madison, appeared in Jefferson County Circuit Court Tuesday to be sentenced after pleading guilty to two counts of resisting law enforcement resulting in death as Level 3 felonies punishable by three to 16 years in prison. Families of the victims also appeared to provide victim impact statements during the hearing.
The incident began when Madison Police attempted to conduct a traffic stop on a 2005 Toyota car in Madison at 3:45 p.m. on Jan. 9, 2020, and the driver fled in the vehicle from the officer.
Coombs, then age 18, was driving and fled from the officer northbound on State Road 7 from Madison. Indiana State Police and the Jefferson County Sheriff’s Department joined the Madison Police Department pursuit of the vehicle with the vehicle turning westbound on State Road 250, southbound on State Road 3, and then eastbound on State Road 256 back toward Madison.
Coombs lost control of the vehicle on State Road 256 at Thompson Road, causing the vehicle to leave the roadway and strike two utility poles on the northeast corner of the intersection.
A front seat passenger in the vehicle, Tyler Cooley, 18, of Hanover, and a backseat passenger, Brooklyn James, 19, of Madison, were fatally injured in the crash and both were pronounced dead at the scene by the Jefferson County Coroner’s Office. Coombs was airlifted from the scene to a Louisville area hospital where he was treated for serious injuries. Following his release from the hospital, he was arrested and has remained in custody since then pending trial.
Sandy Cooley, the grandmother of victim Tyler Cooley, provided a written statement to the court during the hearing on behalf of the family. “No amount of time you serve, Blake, will fix what you have done or bring back your victims. We just wish you hadn’t been so selfish or cowardly and faced the consequences of your actions. All you had to do was stop,” she wrote.
“This is a tragic and unfortunate reminder to obey traffic stops and pull over safely, even if you fear the consequences. I want to thank the families of the victims for their participation in the court process and for providing impact statements to the court. I am continuing to keep the family of these young victims in my prayers,” said Jefferson County Prosecutor David Sutter at the conclusion of the hearing.
Coombs was convicted on the lead charges, Level 3 felonies, one count for each victim. He was sentenced to 16 years with one year suspended. The sentencing range on a Level 3 felony is 3-16 years. He will receive credit for time served and will serve the remainder of his sentence at the Indiana Department of Correction.
Although an ISP investigation into the incident found no wrong doing on the part of the officers, the incident along with other pursuits in the city, was cited as part of the reason a City of Madison Police Steering Committee recommended tightening the city’s threshold on what justifies engaging in a high speed pursuit. The department’s Standard Operation Procedure on pursuits was rewritten in 2020 as part of a wider review of all police policies and procedures.