Man accused of stealing Winnipeg police cruiser charged with 54 offences
Pursuit involving police helicopter, RCMP began in Winnipeg and ended near Portage la Prairie
Two men arrested Thursday face charges for a litany of offences after a carjacking left one person injured and a subsequent theft of a Winnipeg police cruiser that ended following a chase near Portage la Prairie that was "shocking to everyone involved," says Const. Rob Carver.
"This is one of the most significant crime sprees I have ever reported on," Carver told reporters Friday. "This is just an unbelievable set of events."
Winnipegger Terry Johnathon Dutko, 20, was charged with 54 offences, including aggravated assault, five counts of robbery, motor vehicle theft, evading police, dangerous driving, weapon possession, cocaine possession, breaking and entering, and separate charges of fraud and possession of proceeds from crimes over and under $5,000.
Melville Edwin Sanford, 37, also of Winnipeg, was charged with three counts of robbery, aggravated assault, possession of the proceeds of crime over $5,000 and another count for under $5,000.
The men were arrested separately Thursday after a wild pursuit that spanned more than 100 kilometres and involved numerous Winnipeg police vehicles, the WPS Air1 police helicopter and RCMP cruisers.
It started at about 2:30 a.m. when police came across a stolen jeep near MacGregor Street and Jarvis Avenue.
Air1 tracked the vehicle from above as it moved west through the city. The stolen jeep blew out a tire near the outskirts of the city after running over police spikes and came to a stop at the Flying J gas bar in Headingley, just west of Winnipeg.
Quebec vehicle carjacked
Police converged on the area, but the two men first managed to ditch the jeep and carjack a vehicle from Quebec. The men pulled three adults from that vehicle, and one was hospitalized with serious injuries after he tried to retrieve some belongings from the vehicle and was dragged six metres, said Carver.
They didn't get far in that second stolen vehicle before police stopped them on the TransCanada Highway, said Carver. Officers got out of a cruiser and chased the men when they took off on foot, but Dutko managed to circle back and steal the cruiser, which still had the keys in the ignition, Carver said.
Sanford was arrested, but Dutko led a large amount of police vehicles, including from RCMP, on a high-speed chase west.
Police managed to throw out another spike belt that punctured a tire on the stolen cruiser outside another Flying J, this time just east of Portage la Prairie near the Highway 26 and TransCanada Highway intersection.
Dutko ran off and tried to carjack another vehicle, this time from an adult woman, Carver said. Police managed to arrest him before he could take off again.
'Complete disregard for anyone'
The unusual turn of events is one of the only times Carver said he can remember a police cruiser being stolen in his 25 years on the force.
He said the three adults who were in the vehicle from Quebec that was carjacked were traumatized, as were some of the officers involved.
"The fact that there were no more serious injuries is a miracle," said Carver. "Investigators were shaking their heads yesterday."
The crime spree used a huge amount of resources, and that led to a backlog of 300 calls for service to Winnipeg police on Thursday. As of Friday morning, police had managed to whittle that down to around 200.
"I think the level of recklessness and public endangerment and absolute, complete disregard for anyone was shocking to everyone who was involved," said Carver.
Dutko and Sanford were both known to police before the robberies and chase.
Charges against Dutko date back to Feb. 25 and include 28 different incidents, Carver said.
With files from Nelly Gonzalez