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Idaho police chase ends with cruisers damaged

Bryan Dooley

ADA COUNTY, Idaho — What started as a traffic stop for not having proper mud flaps turned into a wild Friday afternoon police pursuit through western Ada County that finally ended with the apprehension of a wanted Oregon man.

The frenzied, prolonged chase wound through normally quiet neighborhood streets, cross-county through fields, along crowded thoroughfares, through a school playground and walking path and ultimately ended after the driver headed the wrong way on Interstate 84 in pre-rush hour traffic.

The bizarre series of events began when Idaho State Police Trooper Justin Klitch stopped 27-year-old Earl Leslie Wayland Jr. of Grants Pass, Ore., at about 1:10 p.m. on the westbound side of I-84 near Maple Grove Road. Wayland was driving a gray 1971 Chevrolet pickup with Oregon plates.When Klitch ran a driver’s check on the name Wayland gave him, he determined something wasn’t right and walked up to the passenger’s side of the pickup. He asked Wayland to shut off the engine and step out. Instead, troopers said, Wayland threw the truck into gear and sped off, the vehicle striking Klitch in the arm as it sped away.

Officers pursued Wayland west on I-84 at speeds of up to 100 mph, exiting the freeway at a field near Ten Mile Road and heading north. Wayland continued to flee through subdivisions in the area, police said, tearing through residential areas at speeds of up to 50 mph, at one point entering the playground of Chaparral Elementary School.Chase goes to school

Meridian School District public information officer Eric Exline said Chaparral, at 1155 N. Deer Creek Lane, went into a “soft lockdown” after Meridian Police officers alerted the school of the ongoing chase and that the suspect was near the school.

Students had just finished lunch and had been back in the building for about 20 minutes when the soft lockdown was ordered. Administrators ensured exterior doors were locked to prevent any unwanted people from entering the building.

“He went through a double chain-link fence on the school grounds, crossed to the west of the school grounds, then exited by taking out about 120 feet of chain-link fence,” Exline said. “He definitely did a lot of fence damage.”

The car passed within about 25 yards of playground equipment, Exline said. Had the incident happened during recess, the children could have been in serious danger.

“This is the area where they go out and play,” Exline said.

The truck crossed over a school walking path and the back lawn area on the playground side of the school grounds.Entangled in fence

At one point, officers said, Wayland’s truck became entangled in a downed fence and he jumped out, freed the truck, got back in and continued to flee.

ISP Sgt. Sheldon Kelly told reporters police temporarily discontinued the pursuit at one point to avoid endangering residential neighborhoods.

Wayland reportedly then turned back through nearby Fuller Park, getting back onto the interstate near the Ten Mile overpass and traveling east on the westbound side of traffic, driving some two miles against opposing traffic.

Pursuing officers made frantic calls to dispatchers about the danger posed by the vehicle traveling eastbound as cars passed head-on. At one point, the chase traveled on the north shoulder of the freeway.

As the pursuit approached the Meridian Road exit, Wayland darted across the median and took the exit on the eastbound side.

With troopers close behind, Wayland hit another car on the off-ramp and spun out. Trooper Scott Tulleners was able to pin Wayland’s pickup against the guardrail using his patrol car, ending the pursuit. Wayland showed no weapons and was arrested, police said.Woman recounts crash

The car Wayland struck belonged to Barbara Hays of Pasco, Wash. Hays, in town to help her son and daughter-in-law move in to a new home, was driving up the Meridian off-ramp when Wayland slammed into her vehicle.

“He was going quite fast ... He ended up pushing me clear around so now I’m headed the wrong way down the ramp,” she said. “That car’s pretty much toast.”

Hays said she saw the police pursuing Wayland but did not see his gray vehicle approaching against the overcast sky.

“I’d been listening to (the pursuit) ever since I got to Ontario on the radio and I was thinking, ‘Wow I hope they get that guy because it doesn’t sound like somebody you really want running around your neighborhood,’” Hays said. “But I really didn’t want to be involved.”

Hays intended to leave her vehicle, which was smoking from the damage, to make sure it wasn’t going to catch fire and check on two dogs in the back seat. But she changed her mind, locked herself in and sat tight when she saw an officer approaching Wayland’s vehicle with his gun drawn.

“I’m glad they caught him. I mean I’m OK. My car’s not, but if it keeps him from doing something else I guess that’s a good thing.”Wanted in Oregon

Officers determined Wayland had numerous felony warrants for his arrest by authorities in the Grants Pass area including several for burglary, theft, failure to appear, as well as stolen vehicle charges.

Friday’s chain of events added felony eluding, aggravated battery on an officer, providing false information and possibly several others. Officers are continuing to investigate the incident and are in contact with Oregon officials.

“Anytime we are involved in a pursuit we know of the danger it presents to the public,” ISP Sgt. John Stauffer said. “Considering the reckless manner in which the subject drove, we are very fortunate he did not seriously hurt or kill someone.”

Troopers Klitch and Tulleners were taken to the hospital to be checked for minor injuries suffered in the incident.

Copyright 2008 Idaho Press-Tribune

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