Construction worker who tailed thieves defends car chase, apologizes to injured boy
It’s a situation that’s prompted countless debates across the region this week: Do you let thieves get away with tools you need for your livelihood? Or chase them at the risk of public safety, in this case an innocent child?
The construction worker who chased after two thieves who’d made off with equipment from his Brookswood job site says it was a split-second decision.
“Everything gets stolen in broad daylight, which is crazy, and we just watched it all happen,” Brandon told CTV News.
He’d been in a backhoe clearing trees at a rural Langley, B.C. property with his dad and brother late Tuesday afternoon when they saw an SUV pull up to the job site. They saw someone loading their leaf blower, several chainsaws and fuel into the vehicle.
They later discovered his dad’s wallet was also stolen. Rubbing salt into the wound, they’d just bought the equipment to replace another set stolen from their workshop this summer.
“Every time when you get ripped off it affects how you think. Really you’re working for free all the time just to try to pay for your tools,” explained Brandon.
Brandon says he leapt into action, hopping into his truck to follow them. His dad and brother did the same in their own vehicles. Brandon’s brother later told him the SUV raced through stop sign and red lights. Brandon says he caught up with the thieves a couple blocks from Belmont Elementary School, where a 12-year-old boy was crossing 204th Street on 40th Avenue on his bike.
“[The thieves] obviously noticed I was gaining on them so they started throwing out most of the tools and then blew through the stop sign and hit the kid on the bike,” says Brandon.
He believes the thieves had tried to swerve around the child, but failed and kept going. That’s when he decided to run them off the road, rear-ending the vehicle.
Both of them ended up in a ditch and RCMP confirm the suspects ran off on foot. Brandon’s brother caught one just as an off-duty Mountie came across while out on a run, arresting the first suspect. The second one was on the run for some time until a canine unit arrived.
Doug witnessed the crash Tuesday and told CTV News it was a chaotic scene as some people tended to the injured boy, while others chased after the thieves.
“They’d jumped out of the car, jumped over the fences and hid out on the other side of my neighbour's back fence and they found them with the cop dog."
Bob ran out of his home after hearing the commotion and says the suspects looked scruffy and panicked.
“I seen this hillbilly-looking dude, no shirt on, jumping around the place in and out of people's yards,” he said.
Langley RCMP tell CTV News the two suspects, aged 52 and 33, are well known to them. They face a raft of possible charges, including theft, hit and run and dangerous driving causing bodily harm. But Mounties also say Brandon could face charges for his role in the crash, which they say aggravated the situation.
“[When you chase someone] you put that person into a panic state where they're now driving foolishly and now we've caused an extra collision where someone innocent has been hurt,” said Cpl. Holly Largy.
Police policy around high-speed chases changed years ago following several high-profile incidents. Now helicopters track and observe suspect vehicles to avoid high-speed collissions and allow officers on the ground to strategically deploy spike belts and blockades to nab suspects. Largy says the results of this high-speed chase illustrate why civilians shouldn’t try to take matters into their own hands.
"Someone innocent has been hurt," Largy said, "And for what? For some property."
Brandon says he ran the SUV off the road because it showed no signs of slowing down after hitting the child and there were other pedestrians down the road. He points out he and his family were victims of thieves, who would likely strike again.
“If they got away they would’ve just done the same thing again,” he says.
Nonetheless, he regrets his role in an incident that sent a child to hospital with undetermined injuries.
“I apologize to the family of the kid that got hit, it’s not exactly something I wanted to see.”