A St. Albert man is in custody for alleging leading police on a four-hour pursuit in a stolen ambulance that ended near Jasper.
Edmonton police have charged John Hamilton Buchanan, 29, with theft over $5,000 and flight from police. RCMP officers, who were also involved in the chase, have charged Buchanan with an additional count of flight from police, three counts of dangerous driving, one count of assaulting a police officer, one count of escaping lawful custody, possession of stolen property over $5,000 and refusing to provide a breath sample.
He also received a charge under the Traffic Safety Act for driving an uninsured motor vehicle.
The drama began on Sunday shortly before 6 p.m. when paramedics, responding to a call near 101st Avenue and 113th Street in Edmonton, found their ambulance had been stolen.
The vehicle was located using a GPS tracking system embedded in the unit and was first picked up by an Edmonton police officer near 151st Street and Yellowhead Trail.
Edmonton Police officers pursued the vehicle as it started heading west out of Edmonton on Highway 16. Police soon notified RCMP officers in Stony Plain and Spruce Grove.
Edmonton police deployed spike belts in an unsuccessful attempt to disable the vehicle. They also hailed the driver using a public address system, but the individual refused to pull over.
Edmonton police turned the pursuit over to the RCMP who caught up with the vehicle when it drove through Edson while running several stop signs.
An officer attempted to get ahead of the vehicle and directed it to pull over, but the ambulance attempted to ram them and the officer pulled away.
Cpl. Wayne Oakes said the entire chase was monitored by a pursuit co-ordinator who receives regular reports about traffic conditions, weather, speed and the actions of the driver.
He said the co-ordinators are meant to provide an objective view of the chase.
“This is somebody that is completely independent and from a detachment that is not directly involved.”
He said in this case, the chase stayed at a reasonable speed.
“For the majority of it, it was right in the proximity of highway speeds sometimes a little slower, sometimes a little faster, but it is being described as far from a high-speed chase.”
Officers deployed several more spike belts and in each case the vehicle swerved around them by either driving into oncoming traffic or into a ditch. At one point an RCMP officer parked on the side of Highway 16 swerved out of the way to avoid a possible collision with the ambulance.
Police believe the driver may have been listening to police radios the entire time and was able to hear in advance where the belts would be laid.
The final spike belt that stopped the vehicle just east of Jasper was co-ordinated using cellular phones.
Oakes said no civilians or police vehicles were damaged in the incident and no one was injured.
“There were probably a number of things; luck, the training, the skills, the reactions of our officers, probably all played a role in the final outcome.”
When the vehicle finally came to a stop the man tried to run on foot, but police officer caught up with him a short distance away.
Oakes said the man was violent and aggressive with officers after the chase came to an end and had to be physically restrained.
Buchanan is being held without bail and will make his first court appearance in Hinton on June 17.