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Man on stolen tractor leads police on chase

March 13, 2004|by TARA REILLY

tarar@herald-mail.com

A man driving a stolen farm tractor maneuvered the machine along railroad tracks and through fields, and rammed police cruisers before police were able to shoot out the tractor's tires and take the man into custody near Smithsburg on Friday, police said.

Police charged Roberto Avila Arellano, of 18 Copperfield Circle in Lititz, Pa., with burglary, felony theft, reckless endangerment, assault and fleeing and eluding, according to a press release.

Sgt. Travers Ruppert of the Washington County Sheriff's Department said the incident happened about 5:30 p.m.

Sally Waltz, of Waltz Road near Smithsburg, called police after she heard a man screaming inside an outbuilding on her property.The woman, frightened, got in her car and drove away, Ruppert said.

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Police said the man tried to drive over Waltz, who was able to avoid him while in her vehicle.

Waltz Road is just off Jefferson Boulevard (Md. 64), east of Chewsville.

As they approached the property, police saw a man leaving the area in a "big, full-size farm tractor," Ruppert said.

The man twice tried to drive over Deputy 1st Class Tracey Peyton of the sheriff's department, who was attempting to stop the man.

The man drove the tractor along railroad tracks and through fields and again tried to drive over Peyton as he chased him in his vehicle, police said.

The man then drove through a fence, into a field and onto Md. 64.

Police were unable to drive their cars through that area, but they were able to keep the tractor in their line of sight, Ruppert said.

"Obviously, we didn't take our cruisers and run them through the fields. We never would've made it," he said.

When the man exited the fields onto Md. 64, he headed toward Hagerstown in the tractor, Ruppert said.

Police were able to shoot out the tractor's tires and the radiator to bring it to a stop near the intersection of Md. 64 and Itnyre Road, Ruppert said.

"He (was) trying to ram the cruisers all the time," Ruppert said.

"The cruisers had to get out of the way or they would've been hit," he said. "He specifically tried to run over a Smithsburg police officer. He got out of the way."

Police identified that officer as Michael Neuland.

The man then was taken into custody and driven to Washington County Hospital.

"He was not shot and no one else was shot," Ruppert said.

Maryland State Police in Hagerstown and the Smithsburg Police Department assisted the sheriff's department, Ruppert said.

Bill Hamrick, who lives on Itnyre Road near Md. 64, was at home when the incident happened.

"Everywhere you looked there were police cars," Hamrick said. "I've never seen so many police cars in my life."

Hamrick said he counted 11 or 12 marked and unmarked police cars, which were stopped in the area with their lights flashing.

"I think everybody in the neighborhood ... stood there and watched," he said. "That was something."

Hamrick said he saw the tractor in a ditch along Md. 64.

"Maybe he just wanted to go for a joy ride," Hamrick said. "He won't be riding any joy for a little while (now)."

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