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Spokane man arrested after Montana freeway chase

Burke (The Spokesman-Review)
Burke (The Spokesman-Review)

A Spokane man who triggered a weeks-long federal manhunt last summer, then escaped from a halfway house this week, was arrested in Montana Wednesday.

Anthony E. Burke, 22, was arraigned Thursday in Justice Court in Bozeman on a criminal endangerment charge after a wild freeway chase that authorities say ended when he jumped in a creek.

Burke served three years in federal prison after police found him with 100 rounds of Russian ammunition at his family’s Spokane-area home. He was prohibited from having the bullets because he’d been committed to a mental hospital as a teen.

Burke was to report to Geiger Work Release Center when released from prison last summer, but he never showed up, triggering a search that ended with his arrest July 31.

He was sentenced to seven months in federal custody for the escape and arrived at a Spokane halfway house in March, said assistant U.S. Attorney Tom Rice. He was allowed to leave during the day to attend classes at Spokane Community College, but he didn’t return on Tuesday.

A warrant was issued Wednesday, the same day a gas station clerk in Three Forks, Mont., reported seeing Burke punch out a car window, get in and drive off. He fled police, and troopers punctured the front tire of the Ford Thunderbird with a spike strip near Bozeman.

Burke drove westbound in the eastbound lanes, and appeared to be trying to hit other vehicles, said Montana Highway Patrol Sgt. Jay Nelson.

Burke also drove in reverse and crashed into a pickup before he hit another set of spike strips and lost control of the car. He then fled across four lanes of highway and jumped into Jackson Creek, where he was apprehended, Nelson said.

Burke has been diagnosed with anti-social disorder and is mildly autistic, according to court records.

Inmates at the Spokane County Jail told federal agents Burke had discussed plans to kill the assistant U.S. attorney prosecuting his previous case, along with several witnesses. Federal agents also alleged he had an al-Qaida training manual and a book on how to make bombs, according to court documents.

Court papers filed as part of his federal conviction portray Burke as a troubled man haunted by his stepfather’s abuse and angry at authorities for calling him mentally ill. He apologized for his escape last summer in a letter to U.S. District Judge Edward Shea filed Sept. 17.

“Every single day I regret not showing up because I destroyed my chance to be free and to go to school, establish myself, and get it over with and move on with my life,” Burke wrote. “I had the notion that the deck would always be stacked against me.”

The Associated Press contributed to this report

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