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Tow411 Recalls: Way To Go Richie Barnes & Mike Bailey


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Tow truck drivers hook chase suspects in rural Pickering

Cars hijacked in bid to escape
Mar 12, 2009 - 05:26 PM

[url=mailto:jmitchell@durhamregion.com]By Jeff Mitchell[/url]

PICKERING -- Two tow truck drivers helped police corral suspects in a wild chase that ended in rural Pickering Thursday morning when the culprits ditched their vehicle and tried to carjack passing motorists in an effort to escape.

An OPP officer fired a shot at the suspect vehicle, a U-Haul cube van, when it was driven toward him, Sergeant Dave Woodford said. No one was hurt and two people were taken into custody on what Sgt. Woodford predicted would be "multiple" charges.

Residents and passersby in the hamlet of Green River, on Hwy. 7 just east of the York-Durham line, looked on as police swarmed over the crime scene. The U-Haul van sat at an angle, the driver's side in a ditch, and an OPP cruiser was parked nearby.

"It was a crazy situation out here today," said tow truck driver Richie Barnes, who along with fellow driver Mike Bailey blocked off Hwy. 7 to prevent the suspects from fleeing, and eventually subdued the man and woman and held them for police.

The men, who drive for April's Towing, were monitoring the pursuit on scanners as it unfolded, Mr. Barnes said. Mr. Barnes arrived in Green River as the OPP cruiser turned onto the dead-end dirt road behind the van and watched as the suspects emerged on foot, flagging down a car and jumping inside.

The two emerged from that car and flagged down two more. They were in the third vehicle when the tow truck drivers descended on them.

Mr. Bailey rushed up to the car as the suspect tried to coax the bewildered driver to keep going.

"He was offering him money to keep driving," Mr. Bailey said. "I pried the door open and put the (suspect) in a wrist lock and took him to the ground and told him he was under arrest."

Mr. Barnes caught up with the woman when she tried to flee.

Mr. Bailey said he thought it necessary to stop the man -- he described him as being in his late 20s or early 30s, about six feet tall and 280 pounds -- before someone got hurt.

"It got pretty dangerous," he said. "We didn't know what he'd done to the officer or what was going on with him."

Lesley Luck was the driver of the first car the desperate suspects tried to hijack.

She said she was westbound on Hwy. 7, on her way to work, when the two walked onto the roadway and flagged her down.

"I thought maybe they were in a car accident and rolled down my window but they hopped in my car," Ms. Luck said.

The man screamed at Ms. Luck to drive and when she didn't he and the woman got out of the car.

"After some yelling and screaming they finally got out of the car and I called 911," she said.

Ms. Luck watched as the suspects commandeered two other cars in their attempt to escape, only to be thwarted by Mr. Barnes and Mr. Bailey.

Sgt. Woodford said the incident began at about 10:30 a.m. when motorists on Hwy. 401 in the Pickering area called police to report a suspected impaired driver. An OPP officer caught up to the U-Haul and attempted to pull it over but the vehicle took off, he said.

The van exited the 401 at Westney Road and proceeded north, speeding through red lights, Sgt. Woodford said. Police called the pursuit off for safety reasons and put out a description of the suspect vehicle.

OPP soon found the van on Hwy. 407 and followed at a distance as it turned north onto the York-Durham line, then east on Hwy. 7. The officer followed the U-Haul onto the dead end road in Green River.

"The vehicle turned and proceeded toward the officer as if the vehicle was going to run him over," Sgt. Woodford said.

"It was that close that the officer had to draw (his gun) and he fired one shot at the vehicle."

The van was driven into the ditch and the man and woman jumped out, ran behind houses and onto Hwy. 7 where they flagged down Ms. Luck's vehicle, he said.

Sgt. Woodford praised the tow truck drivers for stepping in when they did.

"As a citizen that's the proper thing to do," he said. "We're all in this together."

Mr. Barnes said the way the event unfolded left the drivers no choice but to intervene.

"People were put at risk," he said.

Mr. Bailey said he didn't think twice about assisting the police.

"We work along side with these officers on a daily basis," he said.

"They would do it for us, so why not back them up?"

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