Front end loader driver arrested following 90-minute chase in St. Pete
(St. Pete Patch) ST. PETERSBURG – When it comes to getaway vehicles, a front loader isn’t typically a thief’s top choice.
But, that’s exactly what a St. Petersburg man used Saturday night to avoid capture from police for more than 90 minutes. He led them on a low-speed chase through the city, never exceeding 25 mph, before finally being captured and jailed.
The incident unfolded around 8 p.m. when police received a call about a man on a front loader driving erratically in the area of 62nd Avenue North and 16th Street, wrote police department spokesman Mike Puetz in an email to media.
The person who placed the call followed the front loader as it drove into the area of Dr. Martin Luther King Street North, where a responding officer took over the pursuit, Puetz said.
“The man driving the loader disregarded the officer’s emergency lights and sirens, driving into adjacent neighborhoods, going over curbs and running stop signs,” Puetz said. “As other officers began to arrive in the area, the loader operator continued to ignore efforts to stop him and made his way to 4th Street via 38th Avenue North, driving first south, then back north.”
The driver continued to make detours into neighborhoods, but always returned back to the main streets, Puetz noted.
“While his speed never exceeded 25 mph, officers had no immediate means to stop the loader and attempted to just maintain a visual on it until an opportunity arose to either disable it in some way or the driver abandoned it,” he said.
The driver eventually made his way into the Shore Acres neighborhood via 62nd Avenue North. It was there the chase became more aggressive.
“On several occasions the loader operator drove directly at police cruisers stopped at intersections attempting to impede his path, narrowly missing them as they moved out of his way,” Puetz said.
But, a clean getaway just wasn’t meant to be.
More than 90 minutes after the original call, the loader ran out of gas in the 1900 block of Arrowhead Drive Northeast. The man tried to flee from the front loader and resisted arrest. An officer use a Taser, Puetz said, and he was brought into custody.
Donald John Clark, 32, was charged with two counts of aggravated assault on a law enforcement officer, aggravated fleeing and eluding, trespassing on a construction site and grand theft from a construction site. It seems that 20-ton Volvo L110G front loader has a value of $250,000 and was swiped from a construction site on Valpak Avenue.