Local news

Courtesy stop turns criminal

Develle Tschache was warming up Friday morning, waiting to sell some cars when he saw the light blue car hurriedly pull into Hardin Auto Sales.

But instead of giving his best pitch, Tschache watched the beginning of a crazy series of events that left four cars damaged, a Washington State Patrol trooper hit by a car, and his boss helping apprehend an armed suspect behind the nearby Carpet Barn.

And it all started because the suspect, 19-year-old Joseph L. Bledsaw of Hayden, forgot to replace his gas cap, Trooper Brad Hudson said.

“That’s a violation, but he was trying to stop (Bledsaw) as a courtesy,” Hudson said.

Trooper Jerry Walker, who was hit by a car during the chase, was taken to a local hospital with minor injuries, Hudson said. “Jerry had bruises to his knees and lower legs and he’s doing just fine,” he said.

Hudson said Walker was on patrol when he saw Bledsaw’s unsecured gas cap about 9:30 a.m. and turned on the emergency lights on his car. Walker was following the blue car north on Thor, approaching Sprague Avenue.

Walker didn’t know that Bledsaw was wanted on a felony warrant out of Idaho. Instead of stopping, Bledsaw pulled into Hardin Auto Sales, at 3402 E. Sprague, the WSP reported.

“I was thinking that I had a customer,” Tschache said. “Then he came back and around so fast I thought, ‘What the hell is this guy doing.’ ”

The suspect clipped one car then hit an SUV. He backed up, surged forward and tried to drive between two parked vans, Tschache said. However, the driver slammed into the back of a third parked van that he apparently didn’t see, Tschache said.

The trooper parked his patrol car in the entrance, blocking the suspect’s only escape route.

When the blue car hit the parked van, the car’s airbag deployed and the driver bailed out, Tschache said. Walker also got out of his patrol car at the same time.

“I saw the police officer tearing after him,” Tschache said.

Walker chased Bledsaw on foot north across four lanes of East Sprague when the trooper was struck by a morning commuter. “But he was able to get back up and chase the suspect,” Hudson said.

The driver of the car that hit Walker also fled the scene. Troopers later said she is not facing any charges, but they want her to contact investigators so she can tell them what she saw, Hudson said.

Tschache didn’t see Walker go down, but he said he saw the trooper get back up to resume the chase. They disappeared around the corner, near the railroad tracks behind the Carpet Barn.

Tschache’s boss, Ron Hardin, said he walked over to see how the chase ended.

“The kid was face down, and (Walker) had his gun pointed at his head,” Hardin said. Walker “was a little wobbly. He asked me to help him apprehend” the suspect. “I just couldn’t believe that the officer asked me to help him.”

Hardin said he did his best “Cops” routine.

“I stuck my knee in his back and helped (Walker) handcuff the kid,” he said. “We rolled him over and you could see the butt of his gun coming out of his front pocket. That’s when I stepped back. That was enough for me.”

Hudson said Bledsaw had a loaded and cocked, two-shot Derringer pistol in his pocket. He also had narcotics.

Coeur d’Alene police had issued a $150,000 warrant for Bledsaw’s arrest on June 3 for possession of methamphetamine, burglary, obstructing officers, eluding them and possession of a concealed weapon, Hudson said.

Bledsaw is now facing potential charges of felony eluding and damage to the cars, but the investigation is not yet complete.

Hardin estimated about $15,000 worth of damage to the four cars on his lot. He joked that he’s going to host a “dent and scratch” sale next week.

“I’ll give you a good deal,” he said while laughing. “No, it’s not funny. I’ve got insurance. I’m just glad no one got hurt.”

Added Tschache: “It was a crazy morning.”


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