Police: Wauconda officer injured after using squad to block wrong-way drunken driver

A Wauconda police officer suffered minor injuries early Sunday after steering his patrol vehicle into the path of a wrong-way driver to prevent him from hitting other cars on the road.

The driver, 46-year-old Anthony D. Smith of Wauconda, was arrested at the scene on two felony aggravated driving under the influence charges, two misdemeanor counts of driving under the influence and four other offenses stemming from the crash.

Smith, of the 2300 block of Goldenrod Way, previously had his license revoked because of three DUI cases, police said. Police said officer Jon Finze responded to a call at 1:30 a.m. Sunday about a car heading north in a southbound lane of Route 176. After locating the 2016 Nissan sedan, Finze turned on his squad’s emergency lights and pulled next to the car’s driver in an attempt to signal for him to stop, police said.

After the car continued in the wrong lane, Finze spotted three vehicles traveling south toward the Nissan. Concerned about a head-on collision, Finze drove ahead and pulled into the left turn lane at Cook Street to partially block the southbound lanes, police said.

Finze was positioned near the intersection with his emergency lights activated for about 22 seconds, but when he saw that the Nissan still was not stopping, he repositioned his squad and was struck head-on, police said.

When Finze approached the Nissan, he could see the driver pressing the gas pedal and manipulating the gear shift in an attempt to leave the scene, police said.

In addition to Finze’s injuries, his police dog partner, Badger, is being evaluated, authorities said. Smith was not injured.

“The fact that this driver was not in custody and was driving a vehicle is another epic failure on the part of our criminal justice system,” police Chief David Wermes said in an announcement of the arrest. “Thankfully, no one was seriously injured in this incident but the outcome could have been deadly.”

Smith was in custody Sunday at the Lake County jail on $75,000 bail. He’s scheduled to appear in court Friday.