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Spokane, Washington  Est. May 19, 1883
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Dump truck joy ride left Colville residents in dark

Police say a man stole a dump truck and took it on a drunken joy ride that destroyed light poles and power lines in the city of Colville.

Robert Gene Bankston Hartman, 28, told officers he didn’t mean to down the lines when he stole the dump truck from a construction site and drove it through town. He said he’d had about 14 beers when police confronted him about 9:45 p.m. on July 23, but police said he later told them he’d actually been drinking vodka.

Police had heard residents were trapped in their homes at South Wynne Street and West Columbia Avenue because of downed power lines. They soon realized Hartman and the stolen dump truck were to blame. Hartman abandoned the truck at First Avenue and Railroad Street and ran, but an officer blocked his path with a police car. About 1,400 people lost power for about two hours. The affected area extended from U.S. Highway 395 at Pingston Creek to just south of Colville, from Valley-Westside Road to just east of Colville High School, police said.

One witness told police Hartman was laughing while he was striking the power lines.

Hartman’s blood alcohol level registered at .226, police said. The legal limit for driving is .08.

Hartman is charged with first-degree malicious mischief, second-degree taking a motor vehicle without permission and drunken driving.

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