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Spokane, Washington  Est. May 19, 1883
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Bicycling fugitive hits van windshield

Thomas Clouse Staff writer

A rape suspect from Vermont was arrested Tuesday in Spokane after a brief pursuit that ended when the bicycle-riding fugitive smashed his head through the windshield of a van driven by a deputy U.S. marshal.

James T. Burke, 46, suffered a broken leg and head injuries and was listed in stable condition at a downtown Spokane hospital, Spokane County sheriff’s spokesman Cpl. Dave Reagan said.

The Eastern Washington Joint Fugitive Task Force discovered Burke on Tuesday morning after learning that his trail had led him from Burlington, Vt., to Wenatchee and eventually to Spokane, Reagan said.

The case against Burke began when a woman in Vermont accused him of befriending her, drugging her wine and then raping her, Reagan said.

Reagan did not know when the alleged assault took place but said the woman awoke from the attack and discovered that she had been shaved from head to toe. She took some photographs of the suspect from his home and fled to call police, Reagan said.

Burlington officials obtained a warrant for Burke’s arrest, but he fled the area. A local fugitive task force began searching for Burke and tracked him to Washington’s Okanogan County, where Burke tried unsuccessfully to use his brother’s name to cross the border into Canada, Reagan said.

“He befriended a woman on the bus, and she offered him a place to stay in Wenatchee,” Reagan said.

But the woman’s mother became concerned about Burke living in the home, and they asked him to leave. They gave him a mountain bike, Reagan said. At some point, Burke also purchased a van.

Burke apparently then used his brother’s name and the Wenatchee woman’s address to apply for employment assistance in Wenatchee. He then asked to transfer that account to the Spokane office, and the employment assistance officials Monday alerted local authorities, Reagan said.

Fugitive task force members “figured he would need food if he was unemployed. They have free meals at the (Union Gospel Mission), so we started our search in that area,” Reagan said. “We found the van, set up surveillance and nailed him today. That was great police work.”

When Burke rode up, two investigators cut him off with their car and ordered Burke off the bike. He took off through a field with officers chasing on foot, Reagan said.

Burke attempted to ride north on Erie Street when a pursuing deputy U.S. marshal turned his 2003 Chevrolet Astro van south on Erie in an attempt to stop Burke, Reagan said. The bike and the van were about to collide when both Burke and the deputy U.S. marshal turned east.

Burke slammed into the front of the van and his head crashed through the windshield before he was thrown into the air, Reagan said. Detectives immediately called for medics for Burke, who suffered a broken leg and head injuries.

The deputy U.S. marshal was not injured, Reagan said. The task force Tuesday included a sheriff’s detective, four county deputies, four Department of Corrections officers and two deputy U.S. marshals, Reagan said.

Burke “really punched out the windshield with his head,” Reagan said. “Bicyclists should wear helmets.”

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