Friday, April 20, 2012
Beginning at 8:16 a.m. on April 19, a high-speed chase took flight on I-84 eastbound, starting with a pickup ramming another vehicle from behind at milepost 57, just west of Hood River.
Emergency dispatch forwarded the incident on scanner and within minutes an Oregon State Police trooper and lieutenant spotted the suspect vehicle eastbound at Rowena near milepost 76 and attempted to stop it.
The pickup's driver failed to stop and sped up to near 100 mph, weaving between lanes and passing other vehicles on the right shoulder, at times reportedly just missing colliding with other vehicles on I-84.
The vehicle, a Ford F-250, had Washington plates and the registered owner was listed as a Kelso resident, David Clay Jennings, 40, who later was found to have a record of weapons violations and weapons possession.
Spike strips were dropped at mileposts 83 and 85, with the suspect's front left tire taking a hit from the first set at milepost 83.
Jennings continued on at speeds between 95 and 70 mph. OSP was in pursuit with ODOT and local police departments implementing freeway closures.
The spikes began to take their toll and scanner reports indicated Jennings came to a stop at milepost 88, with officers preparing to approach.
The driver failed to comply with troopers' orders and remained inside the pickup for about six minutes.
At approximately 8:42 a.m., an OSP officer on scene reported that the suspect had taken off again, the left front tire shredding off the rim. Jennings' vehicle returned to speeds topping 70 mph and continued on for another 9 miles.
OSP called for additional backup from Sherman County Sheriff's Office to set up a roadblock at Biggs.
Within minutes, Jennings' pickup exited at Celilo (exit 97) and lost control as it tried to turn at the bottom of the off-ramp, stopping in a wide gravel pullout.
At 8:48 a.m., the OSP officer on the scene at exit 97 reported the suspect was still inside the vehicle, which remained running. The officer referred to the suspect as "barricaded in his vehicle."
As officers prepared for an approach to the vehicle, at 9:27 an officer requested an ambulance to stand by on top of exit 97.
At 9:30 a.m., OSP officers ordered that I-84 be shut down for an undetermined amount of time in both directions. OSP called for traffic diversion across the bridges at Biggs and The Dalles.
The driver continued to fail to comply with orders so troopers and officers from Wasco County Sheriff's Office, The Dalles Police Department and Sherman County Sheriff's Office established a safety perimeter.
An OSP SWAT team was called to the scene with an armored vehicle and a crisis negotiator. Jennings remained in his vehicle and an on-scene OSP officer heard on scanner referred to Jennings as "violent and uncooperative."
A follow-up OSP scanner report at 10:53 a.m. reported that Jennings' girlfriend had been reached by cellphone.
A standoff continued with law enforcement until just after noon, with Jennings remaining in his vehicle until a chemical agent was deployed by SWAT team members.
After Jennings exited the vehicle, at approximately 12:20 p.m., he was arrested. He was then transported to NORCOR. The freeway was reopened shortly thereafter. No weapons were found.
According to Lt. Pat Shortt of OSP, law enforcement does not have information on Jennings' motivation to give chase.
"That's the big question for us ... We will be looking for answers," Shortt said.
Jennings was charged with multiple counts of reckless driving, hit-and-run property, reckless endangering and attempting to elude law enforcement. He is being held on a $33,000 bond.
Public records show that Jennings was arrested in Bellingham, Wash., last August on charges stemming from his alleged use of a stun gun on another man's head during a fight.