I'm sitting in the quaint newsroom of my smallish Northern Virginia-based newspaper when one of the editors here gets a call from our publisher. She was driving down I-495 (aka the Beltway or the DC area's busiest highway) when all of a sudden on the other side of the road she sees an 18-wheeler being chased by 50 cop cars and several helicopters. Yes, ladies and gentleman, we're talking about a high speed chase involving a big ol' Mack truck.
Upon hearing this, I laughed and just kind of shrugged it all off as one of those "Haha, criminals will do the darndest things" type of occurrences that just so happened to be going on close to me. Well, about two minutes later we get another call from said publisher that say she just heard the Mack truck had gotten off on the Beltway at the same exit where our office happened to be. Again, I laughed, giggled, whatever you want to call it, and went about my business.
One minute later, though, I started hearing sirens ... lots of them. The office got another call, saying said mack truck was now on Westpark Drive and had finally been stopped by the chasing police officers. Well, guess what street my office happens to be on: Westpark Drive. At almost the exact same moment, myself and another sports editor looked at each other and seemingly at the same instant realized what we had the chance to witness. So of course we grabbed our coats and like true newsmen went searching for this runaway truck.
We walked out the door to the office, turned right, and lo and behold a quarter of a mile away sat a now-wheel less 18-wheeler on the side of the highway. Of course, I got some pictures.
I figure I should give you the official rundown of exactly went down in this chase, and thankfully my weekly paper is on top of things and already has a very good and detailed rundown of just how crazy this was. By the way this dude driving the truck's name is Vernon Jones:
Maryland State Police Sgt. Julianne Pritchard said the semi truck driver who led police on a pursuit from Hyattstown, Md. into Tysons Corner Tuesday afternoon was never driving much faster than 55 mph. By the time he crossed the state line at the American Legion Bridge, with both the truck’s front tires blown out, he was going considerably slower.
“The suspect did attempt to strike a number of vehicles, including my own,” Pritchard said.
She said the chase started at about 3:25 p.m., when Maryland state troopers running a routine vehicle check at a scale house discovered that the driver, identified in a Maryland State Police press release as 36-year-old Vernon Jones of Randallstown, Md., was wanted in Baltimore City.
Jones exited the Beltway at Tysons Corner, and he ended up heading northwest on Westpark Drive. There, the chase ended with the truck drifting across the wrong side of the road and coming to a stop on the sidewalk between a row of trees and a retaining wall, just beyond the intersection with Park Run Drive.
Pritchard said she wasn’t sure if Jones had lost control or given up, but she said smoke was pouring from the vehicle, while the front end of the cab, supported by badly damaged rims, was nearly touching the ground.
“He was giving up, however, he wouldn’t come out,” she said, noting that Montgomery County Police officers smashed the passenger-side window to gain entry to the cab. Once Jones was extracted from the vehicle, “immediately, he was tasered by Montgomery County,” she said.
Here's a link to video (with no sound for you office folks) of the highway portion of the chase. Yes, he is driving entirely on the rims of this truck throughout all this. And here's footage of the last parts of the chase where Jones runs off the road. Pay careful attention to when he first starts swerving (which later turns into vicious swerving and a crash). That's when he passes by my office. Frankly, when you watch that second video, it's more and more unbelievable that this guy didn't drive off the road and kill some innocent bystander.
Oh, but the story doesn't end there. So, since this is a news outlet and all, the fact that there was a crash right near us means we really have an obligation to do the best reporting possible. So with my trusty camera in hand, I set out on a mission to actually get a picture of this dude after he got tasered. Along with a college intern (that just feels ridiculous for me to type considering I was one a few months ago), we started sprinting to higher ground. See on the ground level, police and police cars were pretty much blocking all views of this fellow.
Well this intern (who, for those that need every minute detail of every story had joined the many random onlookers that wanted to see this truck) decided as we were running that we should hop this fairly tall fence that had prickly bushes below as a landing spot. I immediately thought this was unwise, but once he did it and appeared fairly unscathed, I felt like I had to ... you know ... since I'm not an old man and am actually 22 and should be in my athletic prime.
Well, turns out that was a bad decision. I ended up slicing and dicing my left hand on the prickly bushes when I landed. That was bad enough. But once I started running after said intern (who had already dashed to get a photo), I noticed myself bleeding profusely from my right hand. I looked down and as chance would have it, the top of this rather tall chain link fence had dug into the little crevice of skin between my ring and middle finger, a nice little gash if you will.
What's funny is my initial reaction wasn't "Oww this hurts or anything like that." No it was "Crap. I'm bleeding a ton. These cops are gonna somehow think I'm with this crazy 18-wheeler fellow." This all happened as a bunch of elementary school students were walking to their houses with their bus driver. See the road had obviously been closed off so the school bus couldn't go any further. Of course, my blood elicited screams of delight (from the kids who will eventually become goth in high school) and terror (from the goody goody girls that will inevitably be cheerleaders). All in all, just not the greatest situation I've been in.
But rather than go for something to clean up my mess of a bloody hand, my thoughts surprisingly turned back to the mission at hand, getting an actual picture of the now-tasered Mack truck driver. Look at the picture below and tell me I didn't do what I set out to do (bloody hand and embarrassment from being unable to clear a tall, but not really tall chain link fence notwithstanding):
That's what I'm talking about. Not the greatest photo of all time, but like the great Larry David says: pretty, pretty good.
I'm guessing you don't, but feel free to divulge if you have a crazier story from Tuesday December 9. And for all you haters that want to make fun of my failed leap over the fence, it turns out the intern got hurt as well, and I'm quoting him here, "Jumping the fence was a poor decision." So at least my initial trepidations proved correct. Probably doesn't excuse the bloody hand, though.