WHITE CITY, Ore. — The Jackson County Sheriff's Office says it has taken a man into custody after he led deputies on a pursuit in a stolen tractor before driving it into the Rogue River.
Deputies saw a man driving the front-end loader near Agate Road and Avenue G in White City on Sunday just after 6 p.m. The tractor had been taken from a construction site in Medford and had been reported stolen earlier that day, JCSO said.
The suspect, later identified as Chad Michael Heppner, tried to elude deputies after running a stop sign at the Agate Road intersection.
"During the pursuit, Heppner struck several directional signs along Agate Rd and damaged the rear end of a JCSO patrol car by intentionally ramming it," the agency said.
The chase ended at the Takelma Park boat ramp between Eagle Point and Shady Cove, where Heppner reportedly drove the loader into the Rogue River. Heppner jumped out and swam across the river, before running away into the woods on someone's private property.
Deputies spotted the suspect again as he tried to hide on the bank of a small pond, JCSO said. Ignoring commands, Heppner reportedly ran away again into the woods. A JCSO K-9 named Titan was able to track Heppner down, allowing deputies to arrest him around 7:30 p.m.
"The owner of the front-end loader responded to Takelma Park and worked with a towing company to recover it from the river," the Sheriff's Office said.
Heppner was lodged in the Jackson County Jail on a laundry list of charges for the theft and pursuit, but investigators don't believe that it's the end of the story. Deputies responded to a "unusual disturbance" late Saturday night at a home on Finley Road that seems to have been related, after an unknown suspect used a front-end loader to flip a car.
"The suspect used the machine to flip over a vehicle in the yard of the home. The suspect left the area driving the machine and was not located that night," JCSO said.
That Saturday incident remains under investigation, the agency said.