Bill Says: In my 20 year career as a police officer I've had a lot of car chases, some of them involved 4-wheelers, snow machines, motorcycles, a motor boat- which ended up crashing into a pier piling, a landing aircraft- where the pilot had no license to fly and was quite intoxicated, and even a tourist bus- where the driver was attempting to out race me to the border. I even had one pursuit where I chased the driver at 120 mph for nearly 25-miles before he collided into a California Highway Patrol roadblock. He'd been stealing copper wire off the base's old sled track. But my most frightening chase involved a piece of construction equipment through the streets of Skagway.
It was 1 a.m., on an early spring night and I was about to go off shift and start my 4-hours of stand-by time. It had been a quiet night and didn't have any reports to file, but needed to fill out my blotter with assigned security checks. While typing I heard the deep roaring sound of a large diesel engine being accelerated outside the police station. I looked out the window and observed one of the largest front-end loaders I'd ever seen going by. This was a yellow beastie, where the cab was nearly 12-feet in the air and the bucket was large enough to swallow my AMC Eagle patrol car. It was owned by a local road construction crew, who did contract work for the State of Alaska. But at 1 a.m., I knew there was no work going on and left the station in a rush, jumped into my pint-sized Eagle and went into pursuit.
I was under orders not to use my siren after 10 p.m., unless an emergency called for it and traffic stops were not considered emergencies in the chief's eyes. So, with red and blue lights flashing I got behind the loader in hopes the driver would pull over and explain himself. By his erratic driving I suspected he was either stoned or drunk, and then I got close enough to see who the driver was and knew he was drunk. I'd had several problems with this guys stealing cars when he was intoxicated and now he advanced his targets to a 10,000 pounds or more piece of construction equipment.
We went down one street and then another, with him knocking trash cans over and scraping one vehicle with the loader's massive front tires. He ran across one yard and then Joe, who was the driver, caught me by surprise when he whipped that loader around in one intersection, so his bucket was now coming right at me. I skidded to a halt, slammed the transmission into reverse and began backing up at a high rate of speed. Now driving backwards is no fun at 40-50 mph, especially with the jaws of death coming at me. I looked back up at Joe and he was grinning at me, waving even.... he was having a great time. When we reached the next intersection, he whipped the loader around again and I was back in pursuit of him. I think we drove up and down every street in town, sometimes with him being the chaser.
At one point he suddenly brought the loader to a stop, left it running, while he climbed down from the cab and promptly collapsed on the ground. I drove up, found him unconscious and handcuffed him. After carrying him back to the car and tossing him carefully into the back seat... you'll notice I said carefully, right? Then I climbed up to the cab and after some observation, finally found the key and turned it off. Such small keys for such a large piece of equipment.
Joe had climbed over the fence of the construction yard, ( quite a feat considering how drunk he was), where he used to work and broke into the office. After securing the keys, he used the vehicle to plow through the gates. I charged him with Burglary, Criminal Mischief, DWI and felony assault for chasing me with the loader. I knew that felony charge would be tossed if Joe plead to the other charges, and he did. He served 20-days and was on probation for 2-years. The good side of this was that we got him into a program and he sobered up.
Almost a year later I went into pursuit of a souped up Malibu, hitting the Eagle's max speed down the Klondike Highway. The driver, who was a local named Dave, skidded to a stop and whipped a U-turn, which threw him into a ditch on the right side of the road. I parked my vehicle to hopefully block him and began walking up to the car. My revolver was drawn and pointed right at David's face. but he was not going to go quietly. He revved up his engine, ignored my commands to cease his actions and spun his tires, as he shot out of the ditch and came right at me. Oh, I could have shot at him, but later I realized had I fired, I would've eaten the grill of the Malibu. So, I jumped to the right and rolled across the road. He went zooming off back towards town, with me back in pursuit. I knew where he was probably going; his home and sure enough I found his car parked outside- the hood quite warm from his racing. He ran one of the two service stations in town and lived up above his with his wife and two kids. I'd had trouble with him before, always drunk and having marriage difficulties because of it. Well, I found him hiding behind a stack of tires, we wrestled a bit and I got him cuffed. I was not too happy with Dave at the moment, knowing in his alcoholic fog he had tried to kill me. But I tossed him in the cell and called the magistrate to get a bail amount IF his wife decided to try to get him out.She didn't.
I filed felony and misdemeanor charges against him and 6-months later, the DA asked me to drop the felony charges because Dave had also gone into a AA program and he'd been sober for 5 months. He was sincerely apologetic and his marriage problems had improved. So, I did and he plead guilty to DWI and served 10-days because this was his second offense for DWI. I never had another problem with Dave. In fact we joined the Alaska Army National Guard together and after the swearing in ceremony, his wife, who was about 4 feet tall, came up, stood on her tip toes and kissed me on the cheek. When I left Skagway they were still doing great. So maybe Skagway was a God appointment in so many ways.
but there were some people who never learned and that will be for later. God Bless!