A 22-year-old man is accused of stealing a car at gunpoint and leading sheriff’s deputies on a raucous high-speed chase early Saturday in Spokane Valley, causing roughly $4,000 in damage to two patrol cars.
Deputies responded at about 1:15 a.m. to the parking lot of East Valley High School, where a teenage boy reported that his Ford Mustang had been stolen. A responding deputy spotted the car near Trent Avenue and Pines Road and gave chase when it suddenly accelerated and made a sliding turn onto University Road.
The suspect, later identified as Tyler J. Thomas, drove erratically against multiple lanes of oncoming traffic and made dangerous maneuvers to avoid being blocked in by deputies, according to a news release from the Spokane County Sheriff’s Office.
“Each time PIT maneuvers were attempted, Thomas would intentionally swerve toward patrol vehicles, causing deputies to take extreme evasive action to avoid being struck,” the release said.
At one point, Thomas lost control of the Mustang and spun out in the intersection of Trent and Cement Road, then raced through the parking lot of the Valley Bar and Grill and accelerated toward a patrol car “in what appeared to be a deliberate attempt to hit him,” the release said.
The Mustang spun out again at Trent and Fancher Road and came to rest on a raised concrete divider, and a deputy took the unusual step of ramming the driver’s door.
But, the release said, “due to the low speeds of the impact, Thomas was able to accelerate and continue to flee.”
After another failed PIT maneuver, deputies finally boxed in the Mustang and arrested Thomas without incident. They searched the car and couldn’t find a gun that he may have used in the robbery, but a citizen called 911 on Saturday afternoon to report finding a Sig Sauer 9 mm pistol in the 11400 block of Trent. They believe Thomas tossed it from the car during the chase.
The teenage boy, meanwhile, told deputies he had been followed by a white Ford pickup truck, which sped in front of him and cut him off in the high school parking lot. A man got out of the truck, pointed a gun at the boy’s head, patted him down, took his cellphone and ordered him to walk away onto the soccer fields before both vehicles sped away.
As of Monday evening, the driver of the pickup truck had not been captured or identified.
Thomas is being held in the Spokane County Jail and faces charges of first-degree robbery, attempting to elude law enforcement and two counts of second-degree assault. The two patrol cars were taken out of service for repairs.
Anyone with information about the crimes or the other suspect is asked to call Detective Marc Melville at (509) 477-3325.