John Roth figures it was a bullet to the oil filter that killed his old Case International Harvester combine and brought a slow-speed police chase to an otherwise peaceful end.
Officers fired 18 rounds into the farm machine, which had been stolen Tuesday night from a cornfield east of Ellinwood in central Kansas. But not before the combine rammed two patrol cars, hit a parked pickup truck and damaged power poles as it attempted to elude officers at speeds approaching 20 mph!
“Since 1981, I’ve chased a lot of vehicles, but never have I chased a combine,” Barton County Sheriff Brian Bellendir said.
A 37 year old Ellinwood man was arrested on suspicion of a number of charges, but no formal charges had been filed as of yet. Barton County prosecutor Doug Matthews said he anticipated that would happen soon.
Deputies arrived at a county road near Roth’s property around 9:45 pm on Tuesday after receiving a call about an abandoned vehicle. Soon, a 911 call told of a combine with no lights “weaving from ditch to ditch” east of town.
Andrew Sieker slowed down for a curve when he encountered the oncoming combine with an eight-row corn header on the front.
“We met right at the curve and I swerved out of the way,” said Sieker, himself a farmer. “He swerved and hit some guy wires. It was close.” The combine struck several power poles and a pickup truck in Ellinwood, ripping the corn header from its front end.
When an officer approached, the man put the machine in reverse and rammed the officer’s car before “fleeing” the scene. During the chase, a deputy pulled in front of the combine to set a roadblock, but it was rammed and dragged. Two officers then opened fire, shooting out the tires and hitting the motor.
The sheriff said the suspect, who owns the vehicle that was found abandoned on the road, was trying to restart the combine when he was taken into custody.
Bellendir said no administrative action would be taken against the officers, who were deemed justified in disabling the combine because of the threat it posed to society.
October 2, 2015, Capital Press