Police Tape
GODOFREDO VASQUEZ, Gazette-Times

The person sought in an early Tuesday warrant service that involved the Linn County regional SWAT team led Lebanon police on a short but speedy chase later that evening, according to reports.

The suspect, a juvenile wanted for having absconded from the Oregon Youth Authority, was allegedly inside a Nissan Xterra reported stolen in Albany when Lebanon police officer Joseph Staub observed it on Santiam Highway near Walmart at about 10 p.m. Tuesday. When Staub pulled in behind the vehicle, the driver accelerated to speeds above 100 mph, according to reports, and finally pulled in behind a building.

Staub was waiting for another officer because the nature of the call suggested the suspects might have guns. He observed two people bolting from the Xterra. He was unable to locate the runners, but detained an unnamed female at the vehicle who said she'd been hanging out with her cousin, whose name matched that of the suspect.

The Tuesday morning warrant service, near 34th Avenue and Chicago Street, yielded no arrests but resulted in detectives confiscating a small amount of marijuana and some electronic devices. Family members in the home at the time have complained police used excessive force when they entered the home, saying SWAT team members detonated flash bangs and broke windows, ransacking the home while its occupants were detained on the curb.

Linn County Sheriff Bruce Riley defended his team's actions, saying the tactics were necessary to preserve officer safety, and to ensure the action didn't devolve into a shoot-out or a barricaded suspect situation. 

"If you just go and Barney Fife up to the door and knock, chances are the suspect is going to be tipped off," he said. 

Riley added that the use of force by the team is dictated by a matrix that shows the potential for violent confrontation. In this instance, he said, known felons with violent and person crime histories were known to be in the home. Further, he said the juvenile suspect is accused of committing dangerous crimes, and so is considered a risk for officers.

He added that the home's proximity to a church day care and to South Albany High School compelled officers to gain the upper hand quickly, and before the school day began.

"Can you imagine if we'd been dealing with barricaded suspects while kids were arriving for school and day care?" said Riley. 

Riley also said no flash bangs were detonated inside the home where people slept; one was detonated on the back patio while another was deployed in the garage. He also said team members were aware there were children and an infant in the home, and so took measures to protect them. But he also said the juvenile suspect invited the police activity through his actions.

"Even though he's 17 and he's a kid, he's playing big-boy games," said Riley.

The suspect remains at large as of Thursday afternoon.

Contact reporter Neil Zawicki at 541-812-6099 or neil.zawicki@lee.net

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