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Prison Van Theft Ends in Arrest

March 18, 2005|From Associated Press

EGG HARBOR TOWNSHIP, N.J. — A man carjacked a van from a roadside prison work detail Thursday, leading authorities on a 50-mile chase in which he struck at least three other vehicles before flipping over, police said.

The suspect then climbed out of the van, walked up an embankment and surrendered to police who had gathered around the vehicle with guns drawn.

The man was undergoing a psychiatric evaluation Thursday and was to be charged with eluding police and theft of a vehicle, State Police Lt. David Jillson said.

The suspect's name was not immediately released because police weren't sure who he was. He gave one identity but it didn't check out, according to Stephen Jones, a spokesman for the State Police.

The bizarre odyssey began about 10:40 a.m., when the man -- reportedly brandishing a pistol -- ordered five Northern State Prison inmates and a corrections officer out of the van and stole it, Jillson said. The minimum-security inmates and guard were participating in a trash pickup detail at the time.

Ten minutes later, police spotted the white Department of Transportation van headed south on the Garden State Parkway with its amber rooftop emergency lights still on, and they began chasing the vehicle.

Authorities would not say how fast police and the van were traveling as the caravan sped south, the van rear-ending one vehicle and then sideswiping a second.

One of the van's tires was punctured by spike strips placed on the highway, and another was damaged in a collision. No drivers were hurt.

After 35 minutes of pursuit, the van veered off the parkway in Egg Harbor Township -- near Atlantic City -- and hit a guardrail before flipping onto its roof on a median.

Unable to get a response from the driver, troopers used a bomb-squad robot to approach the vehicle and tried to talk to the driver, Jillson said.

Finally, the man climbed out of the van and walked into the arms of police, who wrestled him to the ground, fearing he was armed.

No weapon was found.

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