Pursuit leaves officer with injury.
A transient driving a stolen Jeep Cherokee led Eugene police on a pursuit through Skinner Butte Park Sunday morning, breaking the thumb of an officer whose patrol car was deliberately rammed, police said.
Gary Wayne Henry, 56, was arrested by three officers who managed to pin the Jeep against a tree about 10 feet from the southern banks of the Willamette River, near the Owen Rose Garden.
Police charged Henry with assault, eluding police, driving a stolen vehicle, reckless driving and resisting arrest.
At 10:11 a.m., officer Jeff Roth stopped the Cherokee at the intersection of Sixth Avenue and Oak Street for erratic driving and littering, officer Ron Tinseth said.
Henry, alone in the vehicle, refused to identify himself and instead sped away, police said. The Jeep had not yet been reported as stolen.
Roth chased Henry as he turned onto Fifth Avenue and into Skinner Butte Park near the intersection of Washington Street and Floral Avenue, police said. Henry lost control of the Jeep in the grass and struck a tree, then deliberately backed into Roth's patrol car, breaking the officer's left thumb, police said.
Henry drove about 100 yards on the grass and then headed west on a bike path under the Washington/Jefferson street bridge. Henry then slammed the Jeep into a second tree near the river, followed by three patrol cars, including Roth's.
"There were people walking in the area," said Tinseth, one of Henry's pursuers. "I didn't see anyone on the bike path, but two people saw us coming and went and stood behind a tree."
The three police cars were able to pin the Jeep against the tree, but Henry still tried to escape, police said. Roth managed to reach into the vehicle and remove the key from the ignition, and Henry was taken into custody.
"He was trying to ram his way out of there," said Tinseth. "We had to use pepper spray to subdue him before dragging him out of the car."
Tinseth said Roth "took an extreme risk to protect the public" by reaching into the Jeep to grab the key.
Roth, who Tinseth said would be off six weeks as a result of the thumb injury, was treated at Sacred Heart Medical Center and released.
Henry, who received a minor head injury when he rammed into the second tree, was evaluated by medics at the scene but refused further treatment.