11/19/2007

Truck thief hurts 2 Chicago officers

By Tara Malone and Alexa Aguilar
Tribune staff reporters

CHICAGO, Ill. — Two Chicago police officers were taken to a hospital Sunday afternoon after a man trying to steal a construction truck from a vacant lot on the city's North Side rammed his pickup truck into their sedan, police officials said.

The man, whose identity was not released, then sped south along Ashland Avenue and hit two additional cars near Wrightwood Avenue before he was taken into custody, police said. Charges have not yet been filed, police said.

The officers' injuries were not considered life-threatening, Officer JoAnn Taylor said. Both officers were treated at Illinois Masonic Medical Center and released. Two civilians injured when their cars were struck as the man tried to escape police were taken to Thorek Memorial Hospital, Chicago Fire Department spokesman Joe Roccasalva said.

At about noon, a neighbor spotted a man poking around the fenced construction site where a five-unit apartment building is planned. He was trying to activate the smaller of two trucks at the site, police said

The truck, called a skid steer, is used to push debris and costs about $48,000, said Mike Sciortino, who owns the equipment and construction company. Because such trucks operate on a universal key, thefts are common, he said.

"In the last month, we've lost one, and there was another from this year that hasn't been found," Sciortino said.

To guard against theft, Sciortino bought a key with an additional chip required to activate the truck. The additional protection delayed the attempted theft long enough for police to arrive, he said.

Sciortino said a neighbor spotted the man leafing through an instruction manual near the truck.

Police officers approached the man in the alley behind the construction site.

When a second car arrived carrying two police officers, the man reportedly jumped into his pickup truck and sped down the alley.

The unmarked silver police sedan was hit at Wolfram Street, just east of Ashland Avenue, police said.

The man then drove south along Ashland Avenue and slammed two cars when he ran a red light near Wrightwood Avenue, police said.

Copyright 2007 The Chicago Tribune

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