Police pursuit closes Pat Bay Highway for six hours

Driver tried twice to ram Saanich Police squad car

The pursuit and arrest of a dangerous driver by Saanich Police resulted in the closure of southbound lanes along the Patricia Bay Highway south of McKenzie Avenue due to an investigation early Tuesday morning .

The closures created severe delays for Saanich drivers.

Police pursuits are less common in 2015 but this driver, a 47-year-old Saanich man, met the threshold as it was deemed he was about to commit an indictable offence or cause harm to a person based on his behaviour, said Saanich Police Sgt. John Price.

“The suspect is not known to police, or well known to police, but it does turn out he has a medical history though he wasn’t on our radar for any previous contacts.”

The man is facing a number of criminal charges including dangerous operation of a motor vehicle, assaulting a police officer with a weapon and initiate police pursuit. Highway 17 was closed for six hours, from the McKenzie Avenue overpass to Carey Road as Saanich Police crash analysts conducted their investigation.

“For now the suspect is committed as a ward of the hospital, under guard of Saanich Police,” Price said. “The belief and the hope is he won’t be released if he’s a risk.”

The incident started at 2:30 a.m. Tuesday, when Saanich patrol officers observed a grey Mercury Grand Marquis, with B.C. plates, exit from the rear parking lot of Pearkes Arena. The officer observed the lone male driver acting suspicious and observed suspicious driving behaviour. The vehicle was followed along Tillicum Road through the intersection of Burnside Road when the driver stopped for no apparent reason, blocking the centre lane of Tillicum. The driver of the suspicious vehicle then accelerated away from the officer at a high rate of speed, spinning his car’s tires. The officer attempted to stop the vehicle by activating his vehicle’s emergency lights and siren.

The vehicle travelled south on Highway 1,  before stopping abruptly and then reversing at a high rate of speed towards the Saanich Police car in pursuit. The officer reversed his police car in order to avoid the suspect hitting his car.

At that point, the officer disengaged with the suspect vehicle and parked his vehicle on the side of the highway, only to have the suspect do a U-turn and head directly for the now stopped police vehicle. The officer took evasive action with his car to prevent the suspect’s second attempt at ramming him.

A few minutes later, Saanich Police received a 911 call, where the caller observed the driver and vehicle. According to the caller, the suspect was threatening to kill someone. Saanich officers were able to locate the vehicle that was now travelling north on Quadra Street.

Officers re-engaged a pursuit and the suspect was stopped in the southbound lanes of Highway 17 near Carey Road, across from the Saanich Fire Station, when a police officer used his vehicle to stop the suspect from colliding with or forcing two civilian vehicles off the highway.

Eventually the Saanich man was apprehended following a pursuit that resulted in the closure of the southbound lanes of Highway 17. With the help of a Saanich Canine Unit and after a brief struggle, the driver was arrested under protocol of the Mental Health Act, meaning he is under the care of the staff at the Victoria Jubilee Hospital.

The driver sustained only minor injuries and no officers were injured during the incident.