A suspect led law enforcement on a tense and watery half-hour chase on Monday, before officers saved him from likely drowning in the middle of the Columbia River.
Brian Grimm, 31, floated in the Hood and Columbia rivers, just out of reach of officers calling for him to come to shore. In a 30-minute drama witnessed by several law enforcement officers and members of the public, Grimm floated with the current, past the confluence with the Columbia and out into the main river channel.
“He was really cold, the river temperature is probably below 60, and he didn’t have much time yet,” said Sheriff Matt English.
Officers feared for the man’s safety, considering the strength of the current and how long he was exposed to frigid glacial water in the Hood.
“You don’t want to get out in that channel!” Deputy Noel Princehouse called at one point while the man was still within earshot in the Hood.
“Come on in, please don’t do this!” and “That water’s cold, just let us bring you in!” were other calls by officers.
Grimm was finally pulled from the water by State Police Trooper Mark Jubitz and Hood River Police Lieut. Don Cheli aboard the sheriff marine boat about half way to Washington, just off the Hood River Sandbar. (Jubitz, who skippered the boat, is a former sheriff marine deputy.)
Grimm was delivered to the Hood River marina and taken to Providence Hood River Memorial Hospital. He was released from the hospital later Wednesday and is lodged at NORCOR.
Grimm (no middle name available at press time) was wanted on Jackson County warrants for probation violation and now faces new charges of possession of heroin, attempt to elude police in a vehicle, attempt to elude on foot, reckless driving and reckless endangerment of a person, according to English. He had a female passenger who was detained at the scene and released on methamphetamine possession charges, according to English.
The incident began on land, on Highway 35 a few miles south of Hood River when Princehouse recognized Grimm’s vehicle plate based on the outstanding warrants. Princehouse attempted to make a stop, but the suspect fled at high speed.
Attempts to stop him included spike strips at Eastside Road, but Grimm got around that obstacle.
He drove over the Button Bridge and onto Dock Road, where it goes under the Interstate 84 overpass, a popular spot for anglers, got out of his car and dove into the Hood River. Authorities went to the south side of the Hood in case he swam directly across, and stationed themselves on both sides of the swiftly-moving river.
“This is more of an rescue now than an arrest,” said Deputy Joel Ives near the end of the sandbar as the marine boat approached the man. Earlier, Ives had waded into chest-deep water in hopes of trying to reach the man. Ives’ associates called him off that idea for his own safety.
“If you get yourself into trouble, you become a victim,” English said. “We always try to give aid, but there are so many dynamics. It depends on the situation, but we’ll always try to assist people, but we have to weigh our own safety.”
Across the Hood River, Undersheriff Brian Rockett and Hood River Police Officer Mike Martin waded in and got close to the man, but because of the current could not risk going out further. Trooper Roger Edwards of Oregon State Police also responded.
Deputy Joe Wampler circled the river in his plane, flying in close circles over the man as a way to guide the boat. The wind was gusting and the Columbia was throwing up swells, making it difficult at times to see his bobbing head from river level.
Watching at the beach was Kyle Frizzell of Hood River, whose said his mother, Linda, was with a friend on the way to Portland on Highway 35 when the suspect began tailgating her.
“Next thing we know, he kind of runs her off the road. She called us and we came to check it out,” Frizzell said, adding that his mother was unhurt and the car undamaged.
English said that river eludes are not uncommon, citing one at the Hood River waterfront two years ago and others in recent memory at Koberg beach, a mile east of Hood River.