When John Jones, 26, saw a $50,000 Olympia Fire Department command vehicle parked unlocked with the keys in the ignition at OFD headquarters about 9:50 p.m. Tuesday night, a voice inside his head told him to “take it,” court papers state.
“Jones said all he could think about was keeping to the right and keeping his foot to the floor,” an arresting officer stated in a report.
About 20 minutes later, as Jones led police on a high-speed chase on Old Highway 99 in Tenino, he struck a spike strip laid on the roadway by a Tenino police officer.
The stolen emergency command vehicle slid off the road after three tires popped, and it came to a stop in some small trees.
The joyride was over.
The Fire Department’s vehicle suffered severe damage to its tires and rims, as well as the front bumper. It’s unusable until repairs are made, court papers state.
The brazen theft of the fire incident command vehicle outside the Olympia Fire Department’s downtown headquarters on Eastside Street had local emergency responders shaking their heads in disbelief.
Olympia Assistant Fire Chief Pat Dale said someone stealing a fire vehicle is “completely crazy,” and he has never heard of it happening before in Olympia.
On Wednesday afternoon, Thurston County Superior Court Judge Carol Murphy ordered Jones held at the Thurston County Jail on suspicion of motor vehicle theft and attempting to elude a pursuing police vehicle. She set Jones’ bail at $5,000 and also ordered that Jones undergo a “safe to be at-large” evaluation.
The Olympia Fire Department was fighting a fully involved structure fire in the 2000 block of Arietta Avenue on Tuesday night. A battalion chief who had been at the fire returned to headquarters and left the 2006 Ford Expedition unattended, unlocked and with the keys in the ignition for about five minutes. When he tried to return to the fire, the vehicle was gone, court papers state.
The theft of the command vehicle “hampered and delayed” his ability to perform his duties during the fire, court papers state.
Local law enforcement agencies were notified of the theft. A Tumwater officer pursued the stolen vehicle on Capitol Boulevard and tried to pull it over, but the driver didn’t stop. The driver was speeding through red traffic lights and driving erratically, court papers state.
A Tenino police officer laid a spike strip out on Old Highway 99, which caused the driver to lose control, and the vehicle slid off the roadway, Olympia Police Sgt. Aaron Jelcick said.
The driver was arrested. Jelcick said the driver did not appear to be intoxicated, but “mental health concerns are being taken into consideration.”
Jeremy Pawloski: 360-754-5445
Jeremy Pawloski: 360-754-5445 email@example.com