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What are chase suspects really thinking?

Channel 2 Investigates interviews prison inmate about high-profile chase

HOUSTON – They are some of the most dramatic, dangerous and spellbinding moments on KPRC -- police chases are crimes in progress where anybody in the wrong place at the wrong time can become a victim.

In Houston, we broadcast these events live with dizzying frequency.

In 2017, the Houston Police Department was involved in 997 total chases. That averages 2.7 police pursuits per day involving Houston police.

"We run over 1.5 million calls for service, so when you add all those up it's not all that many pursuits or chases -- whatever we want to term it," said HPD Executive Assistant Chief Troy Finner, who oversees Patrol Operations.

But Channel 2 Investigates wanted to know, "What are these chase suspects thinking? You've got police cars, helicopters, news cameras. The whole city is watching you."

Channel 2 Investigator Joel Eisenbaum went to the Stiles Unit in Beaumont to find out. He sat down with Henriearl Hill, 32, for an interview. Hill's 15 minutes of fame cost him a nine-year prison sentence.  

Raw video: Chase suspect tackled by HPD helicopter crew member

"You ever seen that TV footage?" Eisenbaum asked Hill.

"I heard about it, but it's me. Why do I want to see it?" Hill replied.

"Are you giving any thought to the people out there whose lives you're putting in jeopardy?" Eisenbaum asked.

"My whole mind frame is gettin' away so I can get back home to my family and my kids," Hill said.

In June 2016, Hill was a home burglary suspect on the run -- first in his wife's car and then on foot.

"My whole mind frame from the beginning was get away," he said.

While he was on foot, an HPD patrol car chased him through a field.

"Did that cop car actually hit you?" Eisenbaum asked.

"Yeah."

"You get hit by a car and your first thought, 'Oh I'm going to keep going with this?'" Eisenbaum said.

"Yeah," Hill said.

It was the last in a series of bad decisions that day for this father of three.

"The whole situation was crazy, even when I got in the field and the helicopter, I knew it was crazy," Hill said.

A heroic HPD helicopter officer nabbed Hill, who mirrored the HPD pursuit statistics.

Interview: Houston police helicopter crew member takes down burglary suspect

"I could have wrestled with him and it could have gotten worse," Hill said.

In 2016, 89 percent of HPD chase suspects were men, and 55 percent of those were African American. 

In 2016, 994 HPD chases resulted in 61 injuries, eight deaths and almost $2 million in property damage.

Channel 2 Investigates asked the Houston Police Department's Open Records Division for a copy of the chase policy, but our request was blocked.

"We don't want to give up our tactics on that," Finner said.

[READ: HPD chase policy open records request]

Harris County Sheriff's Office also denied our request. However, the Fort Bend County Sheriff's Office complied.

[READ: HCSO chase policy open records request | Fort Bend County Sheriff's Office chase policy]

"My goal is we have no injuries, no accidents. But in a real world, that is not going to happen, so I just want to make sure we can be the best we can be."

That includes an internal review of every HPD chase.

Hill has done an internal review, too.

"All I can do is mark my past, try to move forward for my future, try to do better," Hill said.

He has enrolled in college in prison and said he wants to turn his life around.

According to data provided by the Houston Police Department to Channel 2 Investigates:

What percentage of chase suspects got away? According to data provided by HPD:

2016: 17.51 percent

2017: 18.56 percent

2018: 16.48 percent

The top reasons for a suspect to run: Driving a stolen vehicle and a traffic violation.

[READ: 2016 Houston Police Pursuit data | 2017 Houston Police Pursuit data | 2018 Houston Police Pursuit data]