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BOSTON -- A `"surreal'' police chase involving two women locked in a high-speed domestic dispute - the passenger screaming for help out the car window as the driver perilously criss-crossed traffic on the Southeast Expressway yesterday - nearly ended with bullets flying too, said one officer who helped save the day.
But then, the officer said, it really got weird.
State police boxed in driver Sandra Howes, 42, on Interstate 93 in Dorchester and drew their guns as she kept slamming her car into the SUV ahead of her in an apparent bid to escape. That's when the passenger, a "panic-stricken'' 41-year-old woman from East Boston who during the chase had been screaming for help, now threw her body across Howes, calling Howes her "wife.''
"She didn't want to see her get shot,'' said the officer.
It was only after troopers smashed out the windows of Howes' car with their batons and blasted her in the face with pepper spray that Howes surrendered her grip on the wheel and could safely be subdued, police and witnesses said.
"It was very close to a shots-fired situation,'' the officer said.
Howes will be arraigned this morning in the Dorchester Division of Boston Municipal Court on assault and motor vehicle charges.
Her criminal rap sheet includes convictions last Thursday in Fall River District Court for vandalizing property and assault with a dangerous weapon.
Howes was sentenced to 30 days in jail but was credited with time already served, said Gregg Miliote, spokesman for Bristol District Attorney C. Samuel Sutter. Her past brushes with the law include a conviction for disrupting a court proceeding.
Yesterday's pursuit began shortly after noon, when a concerned citizen in Charlestown alerted Boston police about a woman being battered in a moving car who appeared to be in danger.
Boston police spotted Howes' green 2000 Honda Civic on the Zakim Bridge heading southbound into the Thomas P. O'Neill Tunnel and began to follow. State police were waiting on the other end, joined by troopers who were working a construction detail on Columbia Road.
"It got hairy,'' the officer continued. Howes "was doing over 80, all lanes. At one point she had to hit her brakes so hard to avoid hitting another car, she kicked up smoke from her tires.''
When Howes became ensnared in a pocket of stop-and-go traffic, police boxed her in behind Quincy hair stylist Alexandra Craig's Toyota. In a futile attempt to flee, police said Howes began ramming Craig's SUV and backing her Civic up into the cruiser behind her.
"All you could hear were sirens and police officers yelling commands: `Get out of the car! Put it in park!'" the officer said.
But a wordless Howes, he alleged, "was not responding. In the heat of the moment, I noticed how deadpan, straight-faced she was. No emotion. It was just very surreal.''