A Spokane police officer chasing the driver of a stolen pickup saw his car – which was ferrying a crew from the TV show – engulfed in flames after he stopped in some dry grass to try to catch the suspect. The alleged car thief got away, only to be caught an hour later after stopping at a yard sale to buy a new shirt and swimming at Boulder Beach, where he was arrested.
“He had the key to the stolen vehicle on him,” said Cpl. Jon Strickland of the Spokane Police Department. “I believe this is one you’ll see on ‘Cops.’ ”
Crews from the long-running TV show, which peers over the shoulders of cops on the job nationwide, have been working with Spokane officers for weeks.
It’s their third trip to Spokane for the show, which is entering its 20th year. The crew involved in Saturday’s chase couldn’t be reached for comment. Brian E. Gorder, 29, was arrested and booked into the county jail on charges of eluding and first-degree theft.
The chase began at about 1:30 p.m., when Officer Michael McNab, who was being shadowed by the two-person “Cops” crew, spotted a stolen gray 2004 Dodge pickup at Myrtle and Wellesley. The truck had been reported stolen earlier Saturday, taken with the keys in it while the owner unloaded items for a food drive.
McNab saw Gorder get into the truck and take off, Strickland said. Gorder then led officers on a chase all around the North Side, Hillyard and into the Spokane Valley, going from main roads to alleyways and gravel drives – even off-road, Strickland said.
About 25 minutes after the chase started, McNab caught up with him at a home in the 5600 block of Thierman, where Gorder began slowly taking the pickup down a slope into a field, where the vehicle briefly stalled.
McNab couldn’t follow in his car, so he stopped, got out and ran up to the truck and tried to remove Gorder – grabbing at the suspect and being dragged along before letting go.
Then, “he looks around and his car’s on fire,” Strickland said.
A small fire had started under the car – possibly the result of a hot engine or tailpipe in contact with dry grasses – and McNab tried unsuccessfully to put it out with a fire extinguisher.
The 2002 Crown Victoria was consumed in flames by the time Spokane Valley fire crews arrived and put it out, Strickland said. No one was hurt, though a computer system and some equipment were destroyed.
“Meanwhile, the bad guy had taken off,” he said.
Though police lost Gorder initially, they began receiving reports that he was spotted at different places along Argonne Road, including a yard sale where he reportedly purchased a shirt.
At about 3 p.m., “a citizen spots the suspect at Boulder Beach – and he’s in the water,” Strickland said. Officers descended on him there, found him hiding in bushes and took him into custody, he said.
In addition to the key to the Dodge truck, which was parked nearby, Gorder had other “shaved” keys used in car thefts.
Officers suspect he was involved with a rash of about 30 car thefts Friday night and Saturday, Strickland said.