Sheriff: Suspect leaves 'path of destruction,' hits 3 patrol cars

SWEET HOME, Ore. - A report of a man spotlighting deer Wednesday turned into a long night for law enforcement as the suspect totaled 3 patrol cars by intentionally ramming his truck into them, sending 3 peace officers to the hospital, the Linn County Sheriff's Office said.

Joseph Arthur Williams, 34, was jailed on 3 counts of Assaulting a Police Officer, Attempt to Elude Police, Reckless Driving, Criminal Mischief and Failure to Perform Duties of a Driver Involved in a Crash.

The case remains under investigation and additional charges are anticipated, Linn County Sheriff Tim Mueller said.

The ordeal started for law enforcement just before 9 p.m. A resident called the sheriff's office to report seeing a man in a 1978 Chevy pickup spotlighting deer on Old Holley Road.

The caller said he warned the man not to shoot the deer - and the man replied by suggesting may he should shoot the caller instead, the sheriff's office said.

Linn County Deputy Corey Putney arrived in the area a short time later and recognized the suspect as Williams from a previous contact. Williams is a transient living in the Sweet Home area, the sheriff's office said.

While questioning Williams about the deer, Putney noticed a large hunting knife tucked into Williams' waistband. The deputy asked Williams to put the knife on the ground.

Williams put the knife down, then tried to pick it back up while yelling and cursing at the deputy, the sheriff's office said.

Williams got back in his pickup and sped off, then came to a stop down the road in the oncoming lane of travel.

As the pickup sat in the road, the deputy learned Williams' Oregon driver license was suspended and there was a valid warrant for his arrest.

The deputy initiated a traffic stop on Williams. When the deputy got out of his patrol car to make contact with Williams, the suspect gunned it in reverse toward the patrol car, stopping just short of crashing into the front of it.

Williams then sped away from Deputy Putney only to stop, hit reverse and stop just short of the patrol car several more times, the sheriff's office said.

Three officers from Sweet Home Police Department responded to assist Deputy Putney along with two additional Linn County deputies.

Williams refused to pull over, driving through the residential area of 3rd Street and Ironwood Streets within the city limits of Sweet Home, the sheriff's office said.

The chase continued east on Highway 228 to the area of Fern Ridge Road, then back into the area of 3rd Street and Hwy 228.

Williams turned south on 3rd Street, stopped in the middle of the street, then intentionally accelerated in reverse and crashed into the front of a 2011 Ford Crown Victoria Sweet Home patrol car driven by Officer Brian Stevens, totaling the patrol car.

The airbags in the patrol car deployed and Officer Stevens suffered a sprained left wrist.

After ramming the Ford patrol car, Williams accelerated forward, stopped, accelerated in reverse and intentionally rammed into a 2007 Chevrolet Impala Sweet Home patrol car driven by Sergeant Jeff Lynn, totaling that car, too.

Sgt. Lynn received minor injuries from the collision, the sheriff's office said.

Linn County Sergeant Dave Opel was behind Lynn in a 2010 Ford Mustang. Williams used his truck to push the Impala several hundred feet backward, causing the rear of the Impala to collide with the front of the Mustang, the sheriff's office said. Sgt. Opel was not injured, and there was only moderate damage to the front of the Mustang.

Williams then continued  south on 3rd Street and attempted to back into a third Sweet Home police car. Williams missed the patrol car, the sheriff said, instead backing into a 1989 Honda Civic parked near the intersection of 3rd Street and Ironwood Street. No one was in the Honda, and it is also a total loss.

Williams turned east on Elm Street and stopped in the middle of the street.

Linn County Sergeant Shawn Fielders in a 2007 Ford Crown Victoria patrol car located Williams and avoided additional attempts by Williams to ram his patrol car.

Sgt. Fielders was able to get in front of Williams, who then attempted to ram Sergeant Fielder's car with the front of his pickup.

Fielders was able to turn his patrol car around in an attempt to avoid Williams' ramming attempts, but the pickup sideswiped the patrol car, caving in the driver side door and totaling the car, the sheriff said. Sgt. Fielders received minor facial cuts from the broken side window glass.

But that collision broke the steering mechanism in Williams' pickup. The truck crashed into a retaining wall.

Williams tried to flee on foot but was taken into custody by deputies and police officers.

Sergeant Fielders, Sergeant Lynn and Officer Stevens were evaluated at the Lebanon Community Hospital where they were treated and released.

Williams was not injured.

The Oregon State Police, working in conjunction with members of the Linn County Multi Agency Investigation Team (MAIT), responded to assist with the investigation. Additional assistance was provided by the Sweet Home Fire Department, the Albany Police Department and the Lebanon Police Department.