NEWS

Witness recalls terrifying high-speed Okanagan chase

08/01/2012 11:05 EDT | Updated 10/01/2012 05:12 EDT
Mark Langmead was on Westside Road alongside Okanagan Lake on Tuesday, waiting for a group of wild goats to cross, when he suddenly found himself in the middle of a high-speed police chase, about to be carjacked.

"He cut us off and one of the guys jumped out of the car, screaming, and had a handgun and started running towards the car and tried to smash in my window," Langmead told CBC News.

"Then the woman jumped out of the car and started screaming, and the next thing I know the back window of the van exploded in glass, and they jumped back in and tore off."

The police chase began at 1:30 p.m. PT Tuesday when police officers spotted a suspicious-looking minivan near Boucherie Road in West Kelowna.

The minivan wouldn't stop for police, and an officer reported being shot at.

The van fled, heading towards the Bennett Bridge, but RCMP already had a roadblock in place. The van turned around and sped onto Westside Road.

A dozen police cruisers joined the chase along the twisting, windy route north.

Langmead's car was not stolen by the suspects, but they eventually ditched the minivan and took another vehicle: a black pickup truck.

Police tried to disable the vehicle with a spike belt and attempted to set up several roadblocks.

There are reports that one officer involved said: "He's shooting at me, he's shooting at me. He's shooting at me with a rifle."

The officer also reportedly said: "He's trying to push me off the road."

The chase ended 80 kilometres away, near Vernon, on Highway 97 near Swan Lake, where the three suspects tried to flee on foot.

Two men were arrested and held in police custody in Vernon. A woman was also arrested, and taken to Vernon Jubilee hospital with unknown injuries.

On Wednesday, police said that the two men who were arrested, a 32 year-old and a 39 year-old, are being held in Kelowna as a result of unrelated outstanding warrants.

The 32-year-old has been wanted by police since February for failing to comply with a Kelowna probation order.

The 39-year-old has been wanted since June for offences relating to possession of controlled substances for the purpose of trafficking that were allegedly committed in the Columbia Valley area.

Police said the 19-year-old woman remained in hospital Wednesday.

Several crime scenes

RCMP spokesman Cpl. Dan Moskaluk said there are still a number of areas along the case route that were still taped off for much of Wednesday.

"We have several forensic [identification] members that are maintaining continuity of at least five crime scenes along the area and the route that was taken by the suspects," he said.

Police are asking anyone who may have taken video or photos of the chase, or who may have any information on the suspects, to contact them.

The New Westminster Police Department sent two detectives to Kelowna on Tuesday night.

Those officers are conducting a separate investigation into the Kelowna officers' use of force in the incident.

Five RCMP officers have been placed on non-operational duties, pending their completion of standard fitness for duty assessments.

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