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E. Oregon car-theft suspect picks wrong hole to hide in


An Ontario fugitive suspected of stealing an SUV chose an unfortunate place to hide from pursuing police on Thursday — and found himself the subject of a 90-minute rescue operation, after he became trapped in an eight-foot-deep badger hole.

Around 7:30 a.m. Thursday, an Oregon State Police trooper was on patrol and found a stolen 2001 Chevrolet Tahoe in Ontario and attempted a traffic stop in the parking lot of Jack in the Box on Fourth Street, said Capt. OSP Bill Fugate.

The driver drove away, jumping a curb. Pursued by Ontario police, the pickup was pursued for a short distance, but the chase was terminated due to safety concerns, Fugate said.

During the pursuit, officers saw two men and a dog inside. Information led police to BLM land near Vale, where a search was conducted by ground and air, Fugate said.

One suspect was located several hours later, walking on the BLM land. He was identified as Jerry Boatman, 35, of Ontario, and was arrested on a third-degree escape charge and a parole violation.

The search continued, and a couple hours later, aircraft spotted the abandoned SUV in a ravine. Tracks leading from it were followed for more than a mile, and the dog was spotted. As police approached the dog, it fled into a large badger hole and would not come out, Fugate said.

After police were able to get the dog out, they could hear a man screaming for help from within the hole. Police found Gregory Morrow, 22, was stuck about eight feet underground and could not move.

“He was feet-first in the hole and was losing the feelings in his arm,” Fugate said in a news release.

Police quickly began working to dig Morrow out of the hole. After about an hour and a half, Morrow was rescued and taken into custody,

He was briefly taken to Saint Alphonsus Hospital in Ontario for treatment of minor injurie, then arrested on a parole violation warrant. Further charges are pending, Fugate said.

If police hadn’t found him, Fugate said, “most likely Morrow would have died from exposure, as he would not have been able to free himself.”

OSP was assisted by the Ontario Police Department, Malheur County Sheriff’s Office and Vale Fire and Rescue.

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