It was a beautiful Sunday morning when the hubs & I embarked on what was going to be our last bike ride for a few weeks. We left out later than scheduled to hit a car/bike show being held in a few towns over. When we arrived, it was obvious most of the contestants had done one of two things. Either 1) they left or 2) they hadn’t arrived. It was an either/or thing because the ‘show’ was lacking exhibits even though there was a continuous flow of vehicles both coming and going.
But eh, whose to say; the point of the day was to ride – so – we got on our bike & headed off in search of the next best pairing. Food & Beverage type pairing. Specifically, Pizza & Beer. This particular day however I did not get pizza and I did not get beer.
From the back of our motorcycle I witnessed a driver travel almost 40 miles; erratically back and forth over both lanes, median and shoulders of a divided highway, entering and exiting two towns, having several ‘close calls’ but miraculously not hitting anyone. We encountered this driver after leaving my mother in-laws grave site which just so happen to be en-route for Pizza & Beer…
…We turned onto Highway 99 heading south. We had just gone a couple of miles when a light-colored truck appeared beside us – then immediately off the road into the median, swerving back quickly into the inside lane – then rapidly into ours! The hubs immediately slowed down to stay behind the driver. When we thought it would be safe to pass, every singe time this vehicle would either careen into our lane or the shoulder or median (depending on which lane he was in at the time) then jerk back. You couldn’t predict where the truck would go next.
Admittedly, I was kinda freaking out being on the back of a motorcycle. My heart was pounding out of my chest & my mind told me we were witnessing a crash in the making!
I tried to call 911 but it was no use being on the back of the bike; the wind made it impossible to communicate. I hung up. 911 called me back – but again – bike! That’s when a Ford truck rolled up behind us – then passed. I later learned the passenger called 911 when seeing the danger this driver was not only putting themselves in but also anyone they encounter on this stretch.
The windows of the truck were dark. I wasn’t able to determine what I was seeing. The visual from following behind, looking thru the back window to the windshield appeared as a shadowy profile resembling that of a small person. There was repetitious movement back & forth from the driver’s side to the passenger side which looked like a fight. Jerky motion of a silhouette followed by the vehicle swerving. As we continued to follow thou, with voices raised the hubs & I started to question what it was we were seeing? Perhaps it wasn’t a person but a persistent dog wanting in the front seat? Maybe a couple of helium filled balloons? A blow-up doll? (thinking of the 405 street racer here!)
The movement consistently repeated — the idea of a fight was still our first instinct – but we couldn’t be certain because the movements were identical. Any fight I’ve ever been in or witnessed never demonstrated a constant ‘form’ of any kind.
The couple in the Ford truck followed the driver with us another 10-15 miles on the highway before entering the small town of Prague. The driver drove right thru main street never braking for speed signs or oncoming vehicles. Finally, on the south-side of town we noticed an officer in their vehicle in a parking lot. With both of us honking, arms waving and lights flashing the officer was alerted. From there the pursuit started. This single law enforcement vehicle followed behind the driver with lights flashing, sirens blaring all while trying to keep the driver from crossing into on-coming traffic. I’m not referring to a couple of times either!
It took so much longer than I would have ever imagined for the officer to secure back up assistance with this driver. We passed over I-40 entering the next town where finally back up was waiting with the roads blocked allowing this driver to pass through the intersection without wrecking or causing one. As the chase continued we were caught by a red light. Then another. Before losing sight of the driver leaving town, I noticed three or maybe four different agency vehicles arriving to offer assistance.
When the light changed to green we decided to continue following. I wanted to see what was happening; if the officers were able to pull the truck over. We drove about a minute before seeing the Ford on the shoulder up ahead. Pulling the bike around the inside of the Ford, we see the drivers truck.
Apparently the driver had just been maneuvered by OHP off the road. When I looked up after getting off the bike I saw an officer retreating from the crash back to the officers’ vehicle donning a bullet proof vest. I could hear as Officers over the loud-speaker told the driver to get out.
There was some conversation that wasn’t audible to me. I could only hear when they would raise their voice or spoke over the loud-speaker. I heard over and over the officers tried to get the driver to open the door. To exit. They even shot non-lethal canisters (Pepper spray canisters I later read) at the windows in effort to break them so they could gain a visual as no one knew how many were in the truck.
They continued to try to talk to the driver. To persuade the driver to come out. I saw the door open slightly, followed by officers yelling “put it down” “put down the blanket” “put down the blanket and put your hands up” and I heard: “weapon”. That is when I hit the ground as I had no desire to meet up with any stray bullets.
I can’t tell you how many more times he was asked to come out, to open the door, to put down the weapon, but I can tell you the driver of the vehicle leveled what has now been reported as an AR toward the officers.
Officers from more than one agency then opened fire.
The driver was pronounced dead at the scene.
The driver was the only occupant in the truck.
It was a day or so before a name was released. It’s been another day or so now & the driver has a face.
I hope no one mistakes this post. The officers reacted as trained. They did everything possible to get the driver to exit the vehicle. The driver left no other recourse of action.
I admit, Yes, I was anxious for him to be apprehended. He almost ran us off the road and my adrenaline was pumping. I honestly thought we would see a cracked-out meth head with their girl after a long weekend binge come out of the cab of that truck.. I expected an arrest.
Instead a life was lost.
The loss of life itself immediately changed the hardness of my heart toward the driver & softened my headstrong bitchiness about ‘almost’ being his victim. I don’t know if he was on anything causing his out of control driving such as alcohol or drugs but I read this man was a veteran who served our country to protect me and mine. I also read he was dealing with PTSD. From public posts I was able to ascertain he just needed help. He was searching for help. And I find my heart breaking.
I am so sorry his story ended as it did.
In the same world where technology prevails with AMBER alerts and SILVER alerts – I have to wonder — would an alert system of similar capabilities helped in this situation? I don’t know if anything could have prevented what was set into motion before our encounter but I feel its worth the discussion being brought to the table, isn’t it?
May God protect and watch over this family as they lay their hero to rest.
*Out of respect for the fallen & his family, believing this wasn’t his finest hour, I have purposely omitted his name, branch of service and vehicle information in hopes the next topic of discussion may be in the area of prevention; not blame.
Til next time,