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Sheriff’s Air 1 helicopter assists in car theft arrest

Deputies used a helicopter to track a stolen car Saturday night that raced through Spokane before crashing and flipping on its roof.

The driver, Vladimir A. Stepanov, 20, has been jailed by the Spokane County Sheriff’s Office on suspicion of auto theft, eluding police, and other charges.

The helicopter allowed deputies to pursue the stolen 2003 gold Honda Accord around 11 p.m. without having to engage in a high-speed car chase. The Accord raced above 100 mph at times, according to a sheriff’s office news release.

The car was stolen in the 4700 block of North Upriver Drive and later spotted by a witness in the 9800 block of North Alberta Street.

A chase began and went along Five Mile Road, north on Waikiki, and then north along Mill Road.

The helicopter, which is flown by volunteers, was already in the air for a scheduled flight and picked up the pursuit.

The Honda turned from Mill Road on Little Spokane Drive and crashed near the intersection with Midway.

Medics took Stepanov to Providence Holy Family Hospital, where he was treated and released into the custody of deputies.

When he was booked into jail, deputies said they found two credit cards belonging to someone else in Stepanov’s wallet. Deputies checked the name on the cards and found a vehicle prowling report in which the victim’s credit cards were stolen.

In May 2012, Stepanov was arrested with his wife, Yuliya, after they reportedly borrowed someone’s cellphone and ran away with it. Police said the two had been selling stolen cellphones on Craigslist and were charged with first-degree trafficking in stolen property and theft.