SUNDAY EVENING UPDATE: Witness accounts and a video have been added.
A woman who yelled she was being kidnapped while riding in an SUV triggered a police pursuit Saturday evening through west Salem, downtown and ended when the driver stalled on railroad tracks in northeast Salem, according to police and witnesses.
The Salem Police Department said there was no kidnapping.
The episode began when witnesses called police to report a woman saying she was being kidnapped while in an SUV at a convenience store in west Salem, a police statement said.
A west Salem resident who lives near Brush College Elementary School said that about 4:45 p.m. he heard screaming in the distance.
“Then I could hear a woman screaming hysterically ‘Help me,’” wrote the man in a private Facebook post who asked not to be identified. “I jumped, grabbed my phone and ran out the door. The black SUV was below my driveway. The back seat passenger door was open and I saw the women. It appeared to me she was pulled back inside the vehicle.”
He said he called 911 and shared a photo of the SUV as it went past his home.
Oregon State Police troopers found the vehicle at the Lincoln Store on Oregon Highway 221 and pursued it back to Salem. Spike strips were deployed but the SUV continued on the Center Street Bridge into downtown.
"I'd just gotten back to my office with a coworker and standing outside on Market and Broadway when cop after cop flew by us and suddenly we noticed the black SUV weaving in and out of traffic," Natascha Davis said in an email to Salem Reporter. "My coworker thought it was going to hop the curb to avoid cars which would've taken us both out."
Police said they discontinued the pursuit but then patrol officers located the SUV on the Salem Parkway, and pursued it before it drove onto railroad tracks at Cherry Avenue. Salem police said their involvement in the pursuit started in west Salem at 5:15 p.m. and ended 10 minutes later. Two Salem patrol cars and one Polk County sheriff's deputy were involved in the pursuit while others were involved in efforts to deploy spike strips and to hem in the couple once stopped, according to Salem police.
Alicia Mahrt took video of the pursuit as it neared the end, showing a half dozen police vehicles traveling down Cherry Avenue south from the parkway.
"My husband had just turned on to Cherry towards Pine Street (we just left Home Depot) when he saw the lights behind us," Mahrt said in an email to Salem Reporter. "He pulled over seconds before the suspect vehicle flew by followed by many police cars. Suspect turned done railroad tracks and we could see officers with rifles in hand head towards his stopped car."
Witnesses reported on social media that the vehicle had lost one tire by the time it stopped.
VIDEO: Patrol cars on Broadway
The two are in a relationship and were arguing, police reported, and the woman “yelled out to passersby about being kidnapped to influence the argument.”
Police arrested Michael R. Vanhoute, 32, of Salem, for felony attempt to elude, reckless endangering, reckless driving and possession of methamphetamine. He was being held in the Polk County Jail on $37,500 bail.
Kiah B. Bearden-Cox, 23, was cited and released for initiating a false report and second-degree disorderly conduct.
Court records show that she was charged in Polk County Circuit Court on March 11 with third-degree theft from a Rickreall market. She listed a Salem address.
“Although the situation proved to be a false claim, swift action on the part of the witnesses ultimately lead to locating the vehicle and occupants. Without the assistance of these concerned residents, it would have been difficult for officers to locate them as quickly as it occurred,” Salem police said in its statement.
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