April 15, 2007 in City

Copter, dog used in search for auto theft suspects

By The Spokesman-Review
 

Spokane County sheriff’s deputies used their refurbished helicopter and a police dog Saturday in an unsuccessful search for two men who eluded them in one of two stolen pickups that were abandoned near Newman Lake.

Sgt. Dave Reagan said it seemed likely there was a connection between the two trucks, which were found in close proximity, and with two other stolen vehicles that were found burned in roughly the same area earlier last week.

Reagan said a deputy turned around and gave chase about 11:50 a.m. Saturday when he saw an oncoming pickup resembling one stolen overnight at a tavern on East Trent Avenue. He said the deputy had to back off when the fleeing vehicle kicked up a thick cloud of dust near the intersection of North Forker and North Morrison roads, and the pickup got away.

Coincidentally, another deputy was searching at about the same time for a pickup that had been reported driving recklessly on the east side of Newman Lake. That deputy found a license plate that fell from the pickup and traced it to a Post Falls concrete-pouring company that discovered one of its trucks had been stolen.

The two deputies got together to watch for stolen pickups at the corner of East Temple Road and West Newman Lake Drive, and pretty soon the one stolen at the tavern showed up with two occupants. But the driver spotted the deputies, threw the vehicle into reverse and drove down a long driveway, Reagan said.

He said the deputies didn’t pursue the truck into the heavily wooded area because the vehicle contained two rifles or shotguns when it was stolen. Instead, the sheriff’s Army surplus helicopter – placed into service last year after a half-million-dollar overhaul – flew over the truck and determined it had been abandoned.

“That is one of the ways we are going to use that helicopter: to scope things out from the air to try to keep our guys on the ground safer,” Reagan said.

A police dog tracked the men to a nearby road, where they were presumed to have gotten away in a passing vehicle. Reagan said the other stolen pickup was found “very close” to that location.

Owners of both vehicles were called to drive them away. Reagan said the truck stolen from the tavern – the one involved in both pursuits – was high-centered on a stump and no guns were found when deputies examined it.

Reagan asked anyone with information about the fugitives or the stolen vehicles to call (509) 242-TIPS.

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