OTTUMWA — A suspect who thought he was fleeing from police slammed a stolen truck into a curb and flew into a house.
Neighbor Teresa Wiseman lives a few houses down the street from where the 1998 Ford Bronco was stolen, 321 Burrhus St. The neighbor across the street, Meri Goodman, called in the theft at 11:54 p.m. Wednesday.
"She said she watched a kid in a ball cap, white shirt and backpack checking doors [of vehicles in the neighborhood] to see if they were unlocked," Wiseman said.
That "kid" was Gregory Kyle Ableman, 22, 524 Burrhus St., who was charged with operating while intoxicated (second offense), eluding, second-degree theft, leaving the scene of an accident, driving while suspended, illegal possession of prescription medication, stop sign violation and no SR-22 insurance.
The keys were left in the truck, so Ableman allegedly hopped in and drove off.
Several minutes later, Ottumwa Sgt. Jason Parmenter saw the stolen truck at Church and Myrtle streets. He tried to conduct a traffic stop, but the driver took off southbound on Church Street. At that point, Parmenter decided a chase wasn't worth the risk.
"He was not chased," said Police Chief Tom McAndrew. "The officer followed that policy, and I'm very proud of him for sticking to that policy. In that situation, it's hard not to chase. You know it's a stolen vehicle and you want to chase, but you've got to take into consideration that catching someone with a stolen vehicle is not worth killing an innocent bystander.
"It's better to let the person get away than have a person make that corner with us chasing them and then hit a pedestrian."
Witnesses watched the stolen truck zoom around the corner where Church Street turns into Chester Avenue and hit the curb just northeast of the property going approximately 80 mph, Wiseman said. The truck then "flew" between two trees before crashing into the house at 314 Chester Ave.
"I have trouble taking that curve at 30 mph, so at 80 mph ... there's no way," she said. "And I don't know how he missed these trees.
"He didn't drive; he flew."
After the crash, Wiseman said the suspect got out of the driver's side door, slid across the hood and began to run from police, sprinting down Adella Street and then west on Burrhus Street, all the while ditching his hat and backpack.
Ableman was arrested at his home, a couple blocks from where the truck was stolen, at 12:36 a.m. Thursday by Ottumwa officers. He is being held in Wapello County Jail on $10,000 standard bond.
McAndrew said the squad car video from the attempted traffic stop and the following accident will be reviewed with new police officer recruits to demonstrate how to handle a situation where a potential chase could develop.
He also said no one in the Chester Avenue home sustained any injuries.
— To follow reporter Chelsea Davis on Twitter, head to @ChelseaLeeDavis.