MILTON FREEWATER — Milton-Freewater police arrested a 26-year-old man officials said led multiple law enforcement agencies on a high-speed chase Tuesday across a large swath of northern Umatilla County, causing one school to go into a temporary lockdown.
According to police reports, the pursuit began in Walla Walla County when the owner of a Ford F-150 reported she was following her stolen pickup on Old Milton-Highway at about 10:45 a.m.
The driver of the truck, later identified as Patrick J. Hernandez, then fled south with officers in pursuit and entered Weston.
The driver cut across the Weston Middle School athletic field, damaging a fence.
“He hit the fence and came out on Wallace Street,” Sgt. Joshua Henningsen of the Weston Police Department said. “That’s right next to the (school) cafeteria.”
Henningsen said officers lost sight of the vehicle, and quickly called for a school lockdown to prevent anyone from entering or leaving the school building.
“The lockdown lasted for approximately 18 minutes,” Henningsen said, adding that no students were in harms way as the incident unfolded.
Hernandez then turned up in Helix, roughly 14 miles away, where police say he ditched the F-150 and stole another truck, a 1997 GMC pickup.
Milton-Freewater police spotted the GMC headed north again near Milton-Freewater.
“The officer knew what to look for, and he happened to fall in behind that vehicle,” said Milton-Freewater Police Chief Doug Boedigheimer.
Hernandez was driving in excess of 80-miles-per-hour after he turned onto Steen Road from Highway 11.
“He took off,” Boedigheimer said.
As Hernandez attempted to cut across a field, he rolled the GMC, totaling the truck. He then attempted to flee on foot. Boedigheimer said his officer quickly caught and tackled Hernandez.
Hernandez was lodged in the Umatilla County Jail on investigation of felony attempting to elude and unlawful use of a motor vehicle. Bail was set at $12,000.
The Umatilla County Sheriff’s Office, the lead investigating agency, did not return phone calls for more information this morning.
Luke Hegdal can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or 526-8326.