September 25, 2017
LISTOWEL – A helicopter was buzzing over Listowel Monday morning as police searched for a “brazen” suspect who assaulted an officer and stole two vehicles, including a police cruiser.
The suspect, still at large as of Monday afternoon, fled on foot without shoes after crashing the marked police car around 6 a.m.
“It’s a serious crime to certainly assault an officer and steal a police vehicle, that’s very brazen,” Const. Jamie Stanley said.
The suspect, believed to be in his early 30s, has a thin build and short dark hair. He was wearing a black and red shirt as he fled barefoot.
Even though he stole a police vehicle, Stanley said they believe he is unarmed.
“We do not believe the individual has any weapons on him,” he said. “There was a police firearm in the vehicle, that has been accounted for, it was secured in the vehicle. We do not believe this person is a threat to the safety, although we do recommend individuals to be aware of their surroundings.”
As of Monday afternoon, Stanley said they were close to identifying the suspect, who is known by police. But he would not release that information.
Through tips from the public, police have narrowed their search radius to Listowel and one other location.
“There is another area that we’re looking,” he said. “There’s a possibility he could be in Listowel, but certainly we think he’s still in the area.”
The suspect was initially pulled over shortly before 6 a.m. in Bluevale, Ont. by a Wingham police officer after the Ford F-450 pickup truck he was driving was reported stolen. During the traffic stop he assaulted the officer and stole his cruiser, police say.
The suspect drove to Listowel where, while being chased by police, he crashed into trees behind an apartment building complex on Barber Avenue North.
He ran shoeless on Binning Street East.
“From that point on our officers have been on the ground, we’ve had our helicopter unit involved in this search,” Stanley said.
Barber Avenue apartment resident Michelle Martin, whose second-level unit balcony faces the trees where the car chase ended, heard the crash.
“It woke me,” she said. “I got up, because I thought somebody was hit in the parking lot, so I came out to the living room and I saw the taillights and the headlights there in the corner and I’m like, ‘Oh, crap.’ Then the (driver-side) door was open and two cop cars were sitting there.
“He was already gone, it was that quick, just from me out of the bedroom to the living room.”
First-floor tenant Linda Stevenson said she didn’t see or hear anything, but felt anxious once she learned what happened.
“I wouldn’t walk in the bush right now, on the trail, and I’m just being extra cautious with the doors locked because who knows,” she said.
OPP from Perth, Huron and Wellington counties were on scene during the manhunt. Police asked the town’s residents to lock vehicles and buildings during their search and to report any suspicious activity.
“Give us a call right away, we will investigate,” Stanley said. “Hopefully it will narrow down our search and we’ll be able to apprehend this individual.”
The assaulted officer was “effectively uninjured,” Stanley said. He was treated at hospital for precautionary reasons and released.
“He’s in good condition,” Stanely said.
Stanley said the stolen police cruiser was heavily damaged.
Area schools were locked down, but Stanley said they were scheduled to be dismissed at regular times.