Cashmere, WA – A man in a yellow dress who was released from a mental hospital just hours earlier stole a school bus and ultimately drove a front loader through the home he owned with his estranged wife, but police couldn’t pursue him because of the new state laws that went into effect over the weekend.
The incident began at about 7:40 p.m. on July 24 when employees of Osprey Rafting Co. called police to report that a man wearing a yellow sundress had just stolen a yellow school bus from their business east of Leavenworth on State Route 2, KIRO reported.
Chelan County sheriff’s deputies spotted the stolen bus and tried to stop it after it ran a red light near Monitor, but the driver refused to pull over.
Deputies were not allowed to chase the stolen bus because of the state’s new pursuit laws that went into effect on July 25, KIRO reported.
Douglas County deputies tried to make a traffic stop on the bus after it crossed the Senator George Sellar Bridge.
But again, the driver refused to pull over and deputies were not allowed to continue following him because of the state’s new pursuit law, KIRO reported.
On Sunday night, the Chewelah Police Department in Stevens County called the Chelan County Sheriff’s Office to tell them the bus theft suspect was in custody.
Chewelah police said the suspect – identified as 39-year-old Andrew Loudon – was still wearing the yellow dress on July 25 when he stole a front-end loader and drove it through home he owned with his wife, KIRO reported.
Police said Loudon also used the piece of heavy equipment to flip a vehicle onto the house.
His estranged wife had fled the home when she heard her husband might be nearby and nobody was hurt by Loudon’s rampage, KIRO reported.
Investigators determined that Loudon had been released from a private psychiatric facility on Saturday morning and stole the bus several hours later.
Police said Loudon abandoned his stolen bus near Moses Lake and then hitchhiked to Spokane and eventually to Chewelah.
He was charged with theft of a motor vehicle, possession of a stolen vehicle, first-degree malicious mischief/domestic violence, and attempting to elude a police vehicle, according to KIRO.
Chelan County Sheriff Brian Burnett explained that Loudon’s odyssey across the state had been allowed to continue because, under the new pursuit laws that went into effect on July 25, deputies weren’t allowed to chase him.
Snohomish County Sheriff Adam Fortney explained how the new laws would impact law enforcement in a Facebook post on July 21.
Sheriff Fortney said that prior to the implementation of the new laws, pursuit policies were determined by individual jurisdictions.
Under HB 1054, all jurisdictions are subject to the same state legislature-determined pursuit policy which severely limits when a law enforcement officer can engage in a vehicle pursuit, he wrote.
The new law only allows a vehicle pursuit if there is “probable cause to believe that a person in the vehicle has committed or is committing a violent offense or a sex offense,” according to the sheriff.
“The key part of this legislation is the state has moved the legal bar to pursue for a violent offense to ‘probable cause’ rather than ‘reasonable suspicion,’” Sheriff Fortney explained. “For example, if a deputy sheriff was to respond to an armed robbery and the suspect vehicle was described as a blue F150 and a deputy saw a blue F150 driving at a high rate of speed in the same area as the robbery occurred, a law enforcement officer could still try to make a traffic stop this vehicle, however if the suspect vehicle decides to flee we can no longer pursue it under House Bill 1054.”
He said that under the new law, officers can’t pursue suspected violent offenders who have just committed an armed robbery until they take the time to first establish probable cause. For example, they may need to first contact the victim or a witness and confirm exactly what crime has been committed and what specific person is responsible in order to establish probable cause prior to engaging in the vehicle pursuit.
“While this may seem like a small detail, it will have substantial impacts on the ability for law enforcement officers to pursue vehicles fleeing from the scene of a crime,” the sheriff wrote. “Often times, it is simply impossible to have all of this figured out while responding to a call and coming across a suspect vehicle fleeing.”
And under HB 1310, the new use-of-force law, law enforcement officers cannot detain possible suspects the see fleeing the area of a crime unless they have confirmed that the crime occurred and they know that the person fleeing is the actual suspected offender.
For example, under the current law, if a man was to break into your house while you were inside, you confront him and he runs away, and you call 911 to provide a description of the suspect as ‘a white male, in his 30s, wearing a red shirt and black shorts, leaving on foot,’” Sheriff Fortney wrote in another Facebook post on July 20.
“It has always been considered reasonable that if a law enforcement officer arrived to the area and saw a suspect matching this description, that we had the legal authority to stop him and if he ran, we were allowed to use reasonable force to chase him and detain him. This would be allowed under the current ‘reasonable suspicion’ threshold,” he wrote. “Under HB 1310, this is no longer allowed.”
“A deputy sheriff no longer has the authority to use force to apprehend the suspect in the above scenario,” the sheriff explained. “With the new threshold being ‘probable cause,’ a deputy sheriff will have to have articulable facts, that are confirmed by a victim or witness, that a specific crime has occurred and the person we are seeking is the one responsible.”
“That means we can no longer stop and detain a fleeing suspect matching a description who is running from the area of a crime that just occurred,” he added.
Sheriff Fortney explained that the result would be countless hours of detective work to track down offenders and make arrests of suspects who fled the scenes of their crimes.