Link to Owner Dr. Robert B. Pamplin Jr.



Van taken during a delivery; more than an hour later, Pioneer employees spot the van, report it, follow it, then Warm Springs police place spike strip that stops the van; suspect arrested and papers delivered - on time

PMG PHOTO: MADRAS PIONEER - The Pioneer's van was stolen during a delivery Wednesday morning but the suspect was arrested about 90 minutes later in Warm Springs after Warm Springs Police deployed a spike strip near the Deschutes River bridge. Thanks to some good work from the Warm Springs Police Department, a stolen vehicle incident turned out remarkable well.

The Pioneer begins its Wednesday deliveries very early. Our outstanding delivery driver, Scott Myers, starts his deliveries early, his first at about 5 a.m. He drops Pioneers off in Terrebonne and Culver before coming to Madras. This week, he stopped at Ahern's Quick Stop at about 6 a.m. to drop papers off. With no one in the parking lot, it being dark, and the drop only taking a couple minutes, he left the key in the van.

When he left the store, the van was gone.

The store owner, Kumar, had told Scott that a man, who appeared very inebriated, had come into the store and left just prior to Scott's arrival. We had a suspect.

The Madras Police Department was called. I was called at home and was at the store to get Scott before 7. I picked him up and we set off to drive around Madras to see if we could, somehow, spot the white van that had large "Madras Pioneer" and "Central Oregonian" markers on it. We drove to the south end of town, but no sight of the van. We drove north, to the Plateau Travel Center on the north end of town, an off-the-highway spot that might make a good place to go through a stolen vehicle, we thought. But our van wasn't there.

We headed back to U.S. 26. At the intersection, we decided to head north. Maybe the van was off the road somewhere between Madras and Warm Springs. We get back on 26 and maybe 30 seconds later, we get passed — by our van!

"Whoa," I said, or something like that. "There it is!"

After a moment of freaking out, I told Scott to call the police. Thinking I meant the Madras police, Scott said he didn't know the number.

"9-1-1!" I said.

He called them and relayed where we were and that we were chasing our stolen van. I checked my speed and it was about 80 miles per hour, and our old cargo van — loaded with papers, a vehicle that usually doesn't like to go much over 65 — was pulling away, easily going 90.

I kept it at about 80, not wanting to lose sight of the van. But when we got to the top of the Warm Springs grade, the van was halfway down the hill. Then the van disappeared from our view as we headed down the grade. Just past the Pelton turnoff, though, we saw a pretty sight: flashing police lights.

"They got him," I said. But the police lights continued to move. We kept driving, now at a legal speed, hoping things would resolve well, that we'd soon reclaim our van intact.

When we crossed the bridge at the river, we saw it: a line of police cars blocking the road between Indian Head Casino and the former Warm Springs mill site. We pulled up and stopped, with I think four vehicles ahead of us. I got out of my truck to see if I could see the van. I couldn't. Soon, the police let cars through. We pulled up and spoke to an officer was on the north side of the road.

"That's our van," we convey to him.

He told us to drive up carefully, and there it was, the van, on the side of the road with three flat tires. At gunpoint, the suspect had been arrested and was no longer in the area. We got out to inspect the van. Scott had a personal bag in it, too, that he was worried about. He found it. Essentially, all contents of the van seemed to be accounted for, though the papers in the cargo area were tumbled. Unless the suspect had wanted a couple thousand Pioneers, there wasn't much in the sparse work van of value.

The officer later told us that his sergeant had been at the Pelton turnoff and had pursued the van. His were the lights we'd seen. The sergeant had given the instruction to drop the spike strip just on the Warm Springs side of the bridge, and the officer had to hustle to get them down in time.

All did a fantastic job.

Scott and I took all the bundled papers out of van and filled the back seat of my crew cab, putting the bagged postal papers in the bed. We told the officers that we needed to get the papers delivered. They didn't slow us down, just told us to get the van towed relatively soon.

We did the Warm Springs deliveries, headed back to Madras, hit the post office, and finished the route. We finished a bit after 9:30 — about 10 minutes later than when Scott usually finishes.

When we got back to the Pioneer, Joey Lantz, our office manager, said we'd received a phone call at about 7 a.m. and a message was left. The lady caller had said something like, "I don't know who you have driving your delivery van, but he sure drives like a maniac." The caller had witnessed our van driving on the wrong side of the road south of Madras early that morning, near Fairgrounds Road, and said that he'd nearly hit a semi.

He had the van for nearly an hour before we saw it back on the highway. Who knows where, or how, he drove it.

We could laugh, knowing we'd reclaimed the van — but it raised the fact just how lucky we were in the situation. No one was hurt, or for that matter, killed, thank God. The van could have easily been crashed, but the only damage I could initially see was that the globe over the dome light was gone, like he'd tried to tear out the light. We had the cost of the tow and new tires, but we were, almost miraculously, spared anything serious.

It was a crazy morning that ended so much better than it could have. For that, we're very thankful. We appreciate all the work from the Madras police, the dispatch center and especially from the Warm Springs PD in getting our van back.

Tony Ahern is the publisher of the Madras Pioneer.

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