Officers chase as driver flees the scene

What appeared at first to be a routine traffic accident resulted in a dramatic chase on foot and the arrest of two individuals on Saturday west of Lovell.

On Saturday, July 20, at approximately 6:30 p.m. Big Horn County Sheriff’s Deputy Jeff Angell witnessed a northbound 2002 GMC pickup truck driven by Deon Baker of Lovell run a stop sign and plow into the side of a camper truck containing five individuals travelling westbound on U.S. Highway 310 at the Oasis Junction.

As both vehicles came to rest in the intersection, Angell said he noticed fluid leaking from one of the vehicles. He asked everyone to get out of their vehicles and to move a safe distance from the vehicle as a precautionary measure in case the fluid was to ignite.

Lovell volunteer firemen inspect a damaged camper that was struck by the pickup shown here on Saturday evening at the Oasis Junction west of Lovell.
Lovell volunteer firemen inspect a damaged camper that was struck by the pickup shown here on Saturday evening at the Oasis Junction west of Lovell.

Baker and his passenger, Brady Layne Herdt, got out of their vehicle and stood at the edge of the road. The Landes family, which included two parents and three children ages 9 to 13, exited the camper truck and stood near the side of the road, as instructed.

Angell said as he was assessing the needs of those who may have been injured in the crash, Mr. Landes alerted him that the driver of the other vehicle was running from the scene of the accident.

“It was like a circus out there because there was a lot of traffic, leaking fluid that could have been flammable and I was the only one on the scene,” said Angell. “It seemed like forever before anyone else showed up to help. It really wasn’t that long, but it seemed like it was.”

“Deputy Angell did exactly what he was trained to do,” said Big Horn County Sheriff Ken Blackburn. “He took care of the possible injured first and made sure everyone was safe.”

With the assistance of Lovell Police officers and fire crews, who began arriving at the scene, Angell blocked off the road and organized the men to search for the fleeing driver, who bystanders said disappeared into an area north of the accident covered with dense brush.

The suspect was spotted walking on the railroad tracks toward Lovell a short time later by one of the firemen. The fireman immediately reported the incident to law enforcement. A chase ensued, with Deputy Angell and Lovell police officer Matt Koritnik running after the suspect as he tried to escape. In the meantime, Lovell police officer Noe Garcia drove his vehicle to a point closer to Lovell, where he was able to intercept, capture and detain Baker, who dove into the canal at one point near the Western Sugar plant.

Baker was arrested and charged with one count of interference with a peace officer, driving without a license, a stop sign violation and for leaving the scene of the accident. Sheriff’s deputies took him to Big Horn County Detention Center in Basin.

In the meantime, Herdt, the passenger from Baker’s vehicle, was handcuffed and held in investigative detention at the scene. Officers detaining Herdt noticed a quantity of drugs and drug paraphernalia immediately recognizable to law enforcement in the vehicle. Herdt was then arrested.

Sheriff Blackburn said that the situation was a classic example of the old adage “You can’t outrun Motorola.”

“The effective use of radios to communicate the whereabouts of a suspect make it very difficult for the suspect to outrun a team of officers,” said Blackburn.

Blackburn said the help of firefighters and citizens who acted as spotters combined with the teamwork of sheriff’s deputies and Lovell police officers was impressive and very appreciated.

Angell added, “The Lovell Fire Dept. was great. If it wasn’t for them we wouldn’t have caught Baker. They watched where I couldn’t watch and spotted him walking down the tracks. Kudos to the firemen who came running when I needed their help. They were right there when I needed them.”

Blackburn noted that the matter has been turned over to the County Attorney and formal charges are pending.

Angell said the family in the camper did not seek medical attention at the scene. Their vehicle, which was a rental with Pennsylvania license plates, was completely disabled and towed from the scene.

Angell said it was learned later that Baker had a warrant out of Park County. Baker’s vehicle was impounded due to suspected drugs found in the vehicle and the matter remains under investigation.

By Patti Carpenter