|Ottawa Citizen 15 August 1998|
Hollywood-style pursuit includes smashed vehicles, train collision, manhunt
It was a real-life police takedown that could put anything seen in a big-budget Hollywood movie to shame.
Yesterday afternoon, after a highspeed car chase down train tracks, a train crash and a helicopter search, the Ottawa-Carleton police tactical unit arrested a man suspected of several break-and-enters as he lay cowering in bushes near Carlsbad Springs.
"It was intense operation," said Insp. Sue O'Sullivan, minutes after the suspect, who was bleeding from several wounds to his face, was ushered into the back of a police cruiser.
The chase began shortly before noon yesterday when a break-and-enter was reported in the town of Carlsbad Springs, just on the outskirts of southeast Ottawa. A witness to the crime called police and the force put out an all-points bulletin for a grey Chevrolet Celebrity seen leaving the scene of the crime. Police were also informed that the car may have been stolen.
Shortly after noon, an officer travelling down Russell Road in Gloucester spotted a Chevrolet Celebrity coming towards him. It matched the description of the wanted vehicle, which by then had been determined to be stolen.
The officer made a U-turn, flashed his cruiser's lights and zoomed up behind the vehicle to get the driver to pull over. Instead, the driver of the suspect car sped up and turned down Hall Road, a dusty side road that runs off of Russell. With the officer in pursuit, the driver of the stolen Celebrity raced down Hall Road and then, in an attempt to avoid capture, turned right onto the CN railway tracks that intersect the road. The officer followed.
The two cars made it about 500 metres down the tracks when the wheels of the stolen vehicle became jammed. With his car stuck, the driver jumped from the vehicle and ran into the bushes. The officer, who had already called for backup, pulled his cruiser behind the stalled Celebrity and left his police lights on to warn any trains that might be coming down the tracks.
He also called CN to make sure they alerted trains that the tracks were blocked.
To the officer's horror, as he was still on the phone trying to divert any trains, the 10:15 VIA passenger train from Montreal to Ottawa with 123 people aboard came rumbling over the hill, getting ready for its arrival at the Ottawa terminal.
The conductor tried to stop the train in time, but failed. The train hit both the police cruiser and the stolen car. Both vehicles were complete writeoffs.
Nobody on the train was hurt.
Meanwhile, backup for the officer arrived in the form of the Ottawa-Carleton police tactical unit, the police canine unit and a swarm of police cruisers. By 12:15 p.m. they had sealed off a square of land more than a kilometre wide and began searching for the driver of the stolen car.
For more than two hours the tactical and canine units scoured the bush, even enlisting the help of an RCMP helicopter to keep an aerial lookout.
Shortly before 3 p.m., the suspect was found in a bush just 10 metres from the train track and less than 20 metres from where a horde of more than 40 media, onlookers and police personnel were watching the search unfold.
The suspect, who had several gashes to his face, was taken into custody.
"It's a difficult thing when you set up a perimeter, you never know for sure if the suspect is inside or whether he managed to escape before you got in position," says Staff Sgt. Andy Avery of the Ottawa-Carleton police.
"In this case, it worked."
Police were also trying to determine if there was a second suspect in the case. Some witnesses said there was a woman in the car at the time of the break-and-enter, but police could not confirm that and ended the search after they had the man in custody.
Shortly after 3 p.m., the train tracks were finally cleared of the wreckages of the police car and the stolen vehicle. The stolen vehicle had an assortment of items in its back seat, including speakers, a television and a cooler.
The train arrived in Ottawa before 3:30 p.m.
"We never like to see a delay, but in this case, police were focused on the manhunt and thought there was a bona fide risk to the passengers if they left the train," says Ted Bytalan, a spokesman for VIA rail.
Among the many onlookers were several Carlsbad Springs residents whose houses had been broken into in recent weeks. When they heard a break-and-enter suspect was being sought, they came down to the scene to see if it was perhaps the same man who had hit their homes.
Insp. O'Sullivan would only says that the investigators will be looking at the suspect for both the break-and-enter yesterday morning and "any other incidents that come up that may be connected."
The suspects name was not being released by police last night. They said no charges had been laid as yet.