SPOKANE, Wash. - A plan to hijack a semi-truck loaded with merchandise from Walmart triggered a pursuit today that left motorists dodging the speeding 18 wheeler.
Investigators say long-time thief Daren Allen Suiter, 38, was behind the wheel of the big rig as it careened around some of Spokane's busiest streets.
The precise route of the chase isn't clear, but we know it started in the 3100 block of N. Coleman. The truck made its way to Central and Lidgerwood where it crashed into a vehicle. The chase ended in the 1500 block of E. Dalton.
This could be considered one of the biggest chases in Spokane's history, especially if you go by gross weight and the number of miles driven.
Vehicle pursuits are always dangerous, but this one was particularly brutal, taking out a fence and crushing a car, all because two thieves wanted an entire truckload of stolen loot. This is what stopped the driver's long haul getaway, as he crashed into other cars, narrowly missing others.
"Well, he almost drove over me down here on Foothills," said witness Michael Schmidt.
"All of a sudden, the semi crosses up onto the sidewalk into the field passing me on its right, and the police are coming and they are trying to get in front of him, but the semi's so big they can't," said witness Bob Sargent.
While police and sheriff's deputies thought about ways to slow down the truck, the driver evaded every obstacle in his way with no regard for anyone else's safety.
Officers even contemplated using deadly force against the guy driving the truck, but the chase ended and the suspect took off on foot.
"The guy who stole the truck was just flying through the neighborhood, running after he got out of the semi," said witness James Borders. "He dropped his hat in my front yard. His coat somewhere in the middle of the street."
Police and sheriff's deputies used their loud speakers to urge neighbors to stay inside. They brought in Air 1 to find where the suspect had gone to ground. But, in the end, it was a patrol dog's keen nose that found the thief hiding under an RV. The suspect fought with Laslo and needed to be treated for his injuries.
Witnesses of the pursuit were relieved to see it end. Those who saw the speeding semi understood just how dangerous the situation was and how lucky we were that no one was hurt.
"We were in my house, on the porch, drinking coffee, me and the wife, when I heard a lot of tires squealing," said witness Rick Garza. "Me and the wife turned, and that guy came barreling down the street, and I was still watching him when he bumped into the car and took off that way. I don't know how he made it but he did."
The scene described on Lidgerwood and Columbia is just one of dozens of residential intersections the rogue semi blasted through Thursday. Remarkably, the only damage sustained during the odd chase was to property, not to people.
"The only thing I have to tell you is thank God the kids from school weren't walking," said Garza. "You know, he could've hurt somebody, if not worse."
Logan neighborhood resident Tom Prange was driving with his young daughter when he encountered the semi.
"We were just actually driving down the street," said Prange. "Next thing I know, this big rig is coming up behind us and I heard the sirens and I tried to get over."
Remarkably, the chase ended without anyone getting hurt.
"All I can say is that man knew how the hell to drive a rig," said Prange. "But yeah, not boring day in this area."
The totality of the damage is still getting pieced together as police are working with property owners.