(Update: DCSO identifies suspect, gives details of events; adding video)
A reckless driver from Southern Oregon hit speeds of over 90 mph Thursday morning on U.S. Highway 97 north of La Pine, avoided pursuing police and ditched his pickup in the woods, Deschutes County sheriff’s deputies said. He then stole a linen truck in downtown La Pine and engaged in another chase, ran and was caught with the help of an Oregon State Police search plane, they said.
Shortly before 10 a.m., a deputy spotted a reckless driver later identified Cody Cruse, 39, of Butte Falls, on Highway 97 just north of La Pine, Sgt. William Bailey said.
Cruse headed north and speeds estimated at over 90 mph , passing other cars in the oncoming lane and on the road shoulder, Bailey said.
The deputy turned on his lights and siren and tried to overtake and stop the pickup.
The driver sped north to Wickiup Junction, then turned and drove south on the highway toward La Pine, avoiding a set of spike strips deployed just north of the city, Bailey said. The pursuit was discontinued before reaching La Pine “in the interest of public safety,” he said in a release.
Deputies determined the driver had continued through La Pine, then turned west onto Jackpine Loop. Deputies and Oregon State Police troopers began setting up a perimeter along Highway 97, trying to keep the suspect’s pickup from re-entering the highway.
During the pursuit, the driver threw an object from the pickup that the deputy was able to avoid hitting, Bailey said. A citizen found the object and brought it to the sheriff’s office substation, at the south end of La Pine.
Deputies deemed the object “suspicious in nature” and evacuated the substation and the rest of the South County Services complex as a precaution, while the Oregon State Police Explosives Unit in Salem was contacted and responded to assess it. They later determined it was not dangerous, and was actually a radio made from an ammunition can.
Just after noon, 911 dispatchers got a recall regarding a Mission Linen box truck that was stolen from a coffee shop in downtown La Pine. Bailey said the truck has a GPS tracker, and the caller told dispatchers it was in the area of Burgess and Lost Ponderosa roads, north of La Pine.
Deputies rushed to the scene and found the truck, beginning another pursuit and identifying the driver as Cruse.
Bailey said the second pursuit stayed north of La Pine, primarily in the wooded area south of Burgess Road and east of Huntington Road. He said Cruse was able to get back onto Highway 97, then left it again, heading into the woods east of the highway and south of Gordy’s Truck Stop.
Deputies and OSP troopers began establishing a search perimeter, while an OSP aircraft helped overhead. During the second pursuit, Rosland Elementary School was placed in a lockout to ensure the safety of the students, officials said.
Cruse ran from the truck after apparently getting stuck on the railroad tracks. A short time later, deputies located and took Cruse into custody.
Cruse was taken by ambulance to St. Charles Bend for examination. Bailey said he was being held on a probation detainer and after release from the hospital will be booked into the jail on felony and misdemeanor attempt to elude police, unauthorized use of a motor vehicle, first-degree criminal mischief, first-degree criminal trespass and reckless driving.
The pickup truck from the first pursuit was found late Thursday afternoon in a wooded area off Jackpine Loop. Bailey said that truck was not registered to Cruse, but was not believed to have been stolen.
Earlier this year, Cruse was arrested in Jackson County and pleaded guilty to car theft, fleeing or attempting to elude police and resisting arrest. He was sentenced to 18 months probation and a one-year driver’s license suspension, court records show.
Last year, he pleaded guilty to being a felon in possession of a firearm and received three years probation.