emergency police stockimage

A man who led officers on a high-speed chase from the Bitterroot Valley to a hospital in Missoula allegedly told 911 dispatchers he had a child in his vehicle who wasn't breathing and that he wouldn't stop driving.

When Steven Simpkins, 23, eventually was arrested near the entrance to Community Medical Center's emergency room, officers found no child in his truck.

Missoula Undersheriff Rich Maricelli said the pursuit started when Hamilton police tried to pull over a speeding truck around 6 p.m. Monday. Simpkins drove away from officers, starting a pursuit along U.S. Highway 93 north toward Missoula.

"He called 911 while he was driving and indicated he had an unresponsive child in the vehicle," Maricelli said.

He said at two points during the chase, ambulances were parked along the roadside in an attempt to get Simpkins to pull over and transfer the child for medical attention, but Maricelli said he refused to stop.

At the border of Missoula County, local sheriff's deputies and the Montana Highway Patrol took over the chase and with assistance from Missoula police followed Simpkins to Community Medical Center, where he was arrested. Maricelli said he was the only person in the truck.

An investigation is ongoing, and Maricelli said it's unclear if the man had been told his child was at the hospital or otherwise in danger and had misinformed emergency dispatchers that the child was with him.

Simpkins was booked into the Missoula County jail on suspicion of felony criminal endangerment, and is scheduled to appear in court Wednesday.

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Law and Justice Reporter

Crime reporter for the Missoulian.