A case of a suspected stolen vehicle turned into a high-speed escape attempt last Thursday afternoon and ended south of Trout Lake when the driver of the suspect vehicle crashed it into an informational sign at the intersection of State Route 141 and Warner Road.
The alleged driver, Victor B. Snell, 32, address unknown, fled the scene on foot and is still at large, according to Bingen-White Salmon Police Chief Tracy Wyckoff, whose agency is handling the case because it began in city limits. The investigation, he added, continues; no charges have been filed yet. (Snell is wanted in Oregon on a number of outstanding felony warrants.)
Police believe Snell, after eluding a police dragnet in the Trout Lake area, may have stolen a vehicle in Trout Lake that was later found in the Marina Park carpark in Bingen. That investigation by the Klickitat County Sheriff’s Office also is ongoing.
Four other individuals in the Subaru four-door sedan were taken into temporary custody by police. One of them, Aaron M. Hightower, 35, address unknown, was arrested on an out-of-county warrant and booked into the Klickitat County Jail.
A woman in the group, who was having difficulty breathing (possibly the result of a panic attack), was treated on site by ambulance personnel and later transported to Skyline Hospital for further evaluation. The other two, both males, were released. Bob’s Towing tow-ed the police-sealed vehicle from the scene to a secure impound lot in Carson.
Bingen-White Salmon Police Officer Tony Warren was on duty last Thursday afternoon. In preceding days he had received information from area agencies about Snell, Hightower, and Amanda Shirk being together and suspected of stealing a vehicle in Hood River. The stolen vehicle reported dated back to March 22. Warren was advised Shirk had multiple felony warrants out for her arrest, Hightower had warrants, and Hood River County was in the process of getting warrants for Snell.
Additional information flowed to the Bingen-White Salmon Police Department in succeeding days that the group was in the Bingen-White Salmon area. Police also received tips about possible sightings of the suspected stolen vehicle in Skamania County.
On March 27, Warren received credible information that High-tower had been in Bingen and left there for the Spring Street Trailer Court in White Salmon. Warren headed to the court to check the report out. He stopped his patrol car at the intersection of NE Fields and Spring streets, and from his vantage point noticed a red Subaru sedan parked on the north side of the road. A male passenger outside of the car saw the patrol car and got into the Subaru.
The Subaru drove off and Warren followed. When the vehicle turned west onto NE Cherry Street, it rapidly accelerated, “causing what appeared to be tire smoke as it turned,” Warren wrote in his draft incident report. When Warren reached and turned west onto NE Cherry, the Subaru was no longer in sight.
“I advised dispatch of the fleeing vehicle and that I was pursuing,” Warren wrote.
At Estes Avenue, Warren identified the vehicle heading northbound on Estes and gave chase, accelerating north on Estes to its intersection with N. Main Avenue. “At this time I lost sight of the vehicle [that was] clearly traveling at speeds in excess of 50 mph in the 25 mph zone. I advised dispatch I had lost sight of the vehicle as it was some distance ahead of me.”
Warren activated his emergency lights as he rapidly drove out NW Loop Road. He stopped near Henkle Middle School to ask a citizen if she had seen a red car fly by, and she said she had. Warren continued past the school with lights flashing and siren blaring. There was no other traffic on Loop Road.
As he approached the intersection with State Route 141, Warren could see the red vehicle, which appeared to have slowed. The driver of the vehicle, however, ran the stop sign at the intersection as he turned north onto 141, “leaving black tire marks in the road.”
Warren pursued the vehicle and had gained on it entering the Bald Mountain Curves at 80 miles per hour. “The roadway conditions were bare and dry with light to no traffic north or southbound on Hwy 141,” Warren noted in his report. “I caught up to the vehicle with full emergency lights and the siren activated.”
The two cars passed several northbound vehicles. At around milepost 6, Warren observed “baggies with a whitish substance being tosed from the passenger side of the car.” He also saw hypodermic needles with orange caps being thrown from the fleeing car.
“I continued to advise dispatch of the pursuit, speeds, location, and traffic conditions,” Warren wrote. “Several minutes into the pursuit, at about 1:22 p.m., I requested my supervisor be notified. As the pursuit continued I had caught up to the vehicle enough to see three occupants in the back seat.” He suspected Snell and Hightower were both in the vehicle.
The pursuit continued through Husum and BZ Corner. The suspect vehicle passed some northbound traffic at speeds in excess of 80 mph to put distance between it and Warren’s patrol car. Traffic was mostly light, though a light rain was falling and wetting the highway.
The driver of the Subaru attempted to turn off SR 141 at Sunnyside Road but failed to slow enough to make the turn possible. He continued north, then attempted a turn east on Warner Road “but again was going too fast to make the turn.” The Subaru slid off the roadway at the northeast corner of the intersection before coming to rest, with the front tires embedded in soft gravel. “The vehicle hit the stop sign pole, knocking it loose and knocking the street names off of the top,” Warren noted. “I advised dispatch the vehicle had stopped.”
Warren pulled up to the scene and exited his patrol car armed with his department-issued patrol rifle to cover the suspect vehicle. The driver put the car in reverse and tried to back onto the roadway but the vehicle was stuck. Warren ordered the driver to stop what he was doing and the occupants to get their hands up.
The driver, Snell, got out of the Subaru, turned toward Warren, then ran off northbound into the timber that stands between SR 141 and Little Mountain Road.
“I ordered the rest of the occupants to keep their hands up and had to continually tell the back-right passenger to get his left hand up,” Warren reported. “I told the passengers I was waiting for additional officers, then would have them exit the vehicle. The passengers complied with commands.”
Once back-up arrived, the passengers left the vehicle and were detained by police officers for questioning.
KCSO and State Patrol personnel, as well as Skamania County’s K-9 unit, responded to Trout Lake to assist with processing of the crime scene and the search for Snell. Warren and a Klickitat County deputy searched the adjoining wooded area for Snell, to no avail.
“I did locate a foot print with a sneaker-type tread along a dirt skid road,” Warren reported. “A black hat with the word ‘DOPE’ was located on the other side of a narrow row of brush next to a field. We checked the area extensively by foot and with the aid of a plane from Hood River but were unable to locate Mr. Snell.”
On Friday, Warren received a report of hypodermic needles being found along SR 141 at Catalina Drive, just north of Loop Road. Warren located two syringes in the roadway; one had been run over. The intact syringe “had a clear liquid substance which field-tested presumptive positive for containing methamphetamine.” Warren walked the highway in the Husum area after he had been advised by an area resident that “the local tweakers” had been checking the drainage ditches “for several hours the night before.” Warren looked for additional paraphernalia but found nothing.
The second high-speed chase of the week began near Troutdale at milepost 18 on Interstate 84 with Multnomah County Sheriff’s officers pursuing a 2004 Dodge Ram pickup truck being driven by John Faries, 46, of Ontario, Ore. Throughout Friday evening’s chase, Faries exceeded speeds of 100 miles per hour on I-84 and State Route 14, according to Skamania County Sheriff’s Office Chief Criminal Deputy Pat Bond.
The Skamania County Sheriff’s Office received the call from Multnomah County Sheriff’s Office at 4:36 p.m. to set up at the north end of the Bridge of the Gods in anticipation of Faries crossing there. Faries reached the bridge and crossed at 4:42 p.m. and headed east on SR 14 with two Skamania County units in pursuit, Bond said.
At milepost 61.5, Faries turned onto Cook-Underwood Road, which he followed for 12 miles until his run ended in a turn where he rolled the vehicle onto its roof. Units from the Bingen-White Salmon and Intertribal police departments assisted and the Hood River County Sheriff’s Office, Hood River Police Department, Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife, and Oregon State Patrol waited at the Hood River Toll Bridge with spike strips in case Faries tried to cross there.
Faries was transported to South-west Washington Medical Center in Vancouver for neck and back injuries, according to Skamania County Sheriff Dave Brown. He was released the same evening, ta-ken into custody, and is being held at the Skamania County Jail in Stevenson.
Bond said three passengers were in the truck with Faries, including Sheryl Dinicola, 51, of Ontario, Ore.; Cheyanne Tyler, 21, of Ontario, Ore.; and Jeffery Lawson, 32, of Astoria, Ore. All three passengers were released at the scene.
Friday’s high-speed chase is still under investigation, but so far Faries is facing charges of attempting to elude a pursuing officer with an aggravating factor of endangering someone in addition to police officers and himself, according to Yarden Weidenfeld, criminal depu-ty prosecuting attorney for Skamania County.
Brown said the Skamania County Sheriff’s Office is partnering with the Multnomah County Sheriff’s Office in the investigation of Friday’s incident and that Faries will likely face charges in Multnomah County, as well.
Ben Mitchell of the Hood River News contributed to this report.