Law enforcement personnel from several departments were involved in a sometimes-high speed pursuit for men reportedly driving a stolen Toyota Highlander through the county on Jan. 19. The names of officers involved and suspects involved have not yet been released by local law enforcement.
The original report came from a citizen in the St. Helens area, about a reckless driver passing others in the center turn lane of the highway, traveling northbound. A deputy with the Columbia County Sheriff’s Office tracked the vehicle as it took a u-turn and changed directions on the highway. The deputy attempted to stop the driver, but the man continued. Officers from the St. Helens police department also attempted to stop the vehicle, but the driver swerved, missing the device. He continued his travel through the city at speeds nearing 100 miles per hour.
At that point, a supervisor from the Columbia County Sheriff’s Office terminated the pursuit and SHPD officers backed off as well, concerned for public safety inside the city.
As the suspect vehicle sped westbound on Pittsburg Road, a Columbia City officer spotted the vehicle, which was still traveling very fast. At that point, the suspects began throwing things from the car. All of those items, which have not been publicly revealed, were collected by sheriff’s deputies.
Personnel from the sheriff's office, Oregon State Police, St. Helens, Rainier, Columbia City and Clatskanie police departments searched the roadways between St. Helens and Rainier for the suspect vehicle.
An officer with the Rainier police department spotted the Toyota Highlander traveling northbound on Apiary Road at speeds close to 100 miles per hour. Not long after, the suspect crashed the vehicle over an embankment half a mile south of Simmons Road, on Apiary.
An Oregon State Police Trooper found the two suspects as they attempted to flee, on foot. One suspect was detained, but the second ran into the wooded area. Law enforcement personnel created a perimeter and began the work to get a K9 officer from Cowlitz County Sheriff’s Office.
At that point, a neighbor spotted the suspect and fired a gun, attempting to protect his life and family. The suspect fled.
The K9 team from Cowlitz County arrived, and with other local law enforcement, searched shops, barns, houses and properties for nearly four hours without finding the suspect at large.
The individual who was caught was transported to a Portland area hospital with substantial and serious injuries sustained in the crash. He has not yet been identified.
Police know that the duo drove from Florida to Columbia County, and it is believed that they are part of a street gang known as the "Felony Lane Gang" from the Southeast part of the United States.
Deputies are working to connect the dots in this case and have connected some of the recovered items with recent crimes in the area.
The suspect still at large was last seen on a residential property in the area of Apiary and Simmons Roads in the Rainier area. He is described as a younger black male who was wearing all dark or black clothing.
If you have information about this case, report it to the Columbia County Sheriff's Office by calling (503) 397-1521.
This is a breaking news story and will be updated as new information comes in. Keep checking in here for updates. If you’ve subscribed to this page, an email alert will be sent when the Columbia County Buzz Examiner is updated.