Woonsocket man aids in apprehension of suspect of multiple auto thefts that led to police chase
WOONSOCKET -- Heath Larson had just gotten home from work on Tuesday when he heard a large crash at his back door.
Except what he initially thought was a sonic boom rattling his house was actually an intruder attempting to break into his home.
As Larson retreated to his gun safe, little did he know that he was about to play a key role in apprehending a suspected fugitive that resulted in three stolen cars across Lincoln, Davison, Beadle and Sanborn counties and a police chase from Huron to Woonsocket.
When Larson peered out his window, he saw Brandon Scott, 38, allegedly attempting to break into his pickup truck. Larson bounded to the driveway and pointed his .30-06 rifle toward Scott, who immediately raised his hands. Moments later, Sanborn County Sheriff Tom Fridley arrived on the scene, placed Scott in handcuffs and instructed Larson to keep his gun raised while he reported the arrest over his radio.
Scott was booked into Beadle County Jail -- which has a contract with Sanborn County -- on charges of aggravated eluding and reckless driving from Sanborn County, as well as grand theft of a vehicle, aggravated eluding and reckless driving from the Huron Police Department. Criminal charges are expected in Davison County and the investigation is ongoing by multiple law enforcement agencies and other charges could be filed.
“My first instinct was to grab a gun and keep myself safe,” Larson, 35, an employee for the Sanborn County Highway Department told the Mitchell Republic on Wednesday. “I didn’t know if the suspect had a gun or not, so I was trying to keep myself safe. I guess it was just instinct. I saw him and I just held the gun on him, because I was trying to do whatever I could to get him to stop.”
Scott, whose last listed address is Brookings, allegedly stole his first vehicle, a 2012 Chevrolet pickup truck, in rural Tea on Tuesday before driving to Mitchell, where the Davison County Sheriff's Department attempted to conduct a traffic stop at 2:52 p.m. on the southeast side of city limits, according to a press release from the Mitchell Department of Public Safety.
A pursuit was initiated, but terminated not long after and Scott allegedly collided with another vehicle on Spruce Street. He then attempted to steal another vehicle by unsuccessfully pulling a woman from her vehicle before returning to the pickup truck and driving to the 1400 block of South Main Street, where he once again exited and fled a nearby residence and stole an SUV and drove to Huron.
The Huron Police Department responded to the call of a stolen red Ford Mustang from a business on the northwest side of the city at 4:25 p.m. and a pursuit heading southbound near Virgil ensued and eventually joined by members of the Beadle County Sheriff’s Department.
“Officers were responding to reports of a stolen vehicle and came across the stolen vehicle (from Mitchell), they attempted to stop the vehicle (driven by Scott) and a pursuit did ensue,” Huron Police Capt. Mark Johnson said. “The pursuit went west of town and our officers were joined by Beadle County Sheriff’s Deputies, at which point it turned back to town. Once it headed back to Huron, the chase was terminated by the sheriff and the police departments.”
Sanborn County Sheriffs received a call at 4:47 p.m. about the suspect, and Scott initially evaded the pursuing officers by driving off the highway, but Deputy Jason Coenen was able to locate him on radar driving west on Highway 34.
The chase continued down several country roads, according to Fridley, and Scott eventually collided with Coenen at the corner of Highway 34 and Seventh Street in Woonsocket. Scott T-boned the Sanborn County 2015 Chevrolet Tahoe driven by Coenen, flipping it upside down.
Scott began to flee on foot following the crash, but was eventually apprehended at 5:35 p.m. Larson says the lone words spoken by Scott during the incident were, “I didn’t do anything.”
“He got about three blocks before he tried to get into a house,” Fridley said. “(Larson) was watching him as I came around the corner and took him into custody. He didn’t resist or anything.”
Coenen was “battered and bruised,” according to Fridley, but was released from the hospital and returned to work on Wednesday. Scott did also not sustain any serious injuries in the crash. Coenen’s police cruiser was totaled.
Motives for the car theft have not been determined and Larson was uninjured during the altercation.
“I think I spooked him,” Larson said. “I don’t think he thought anybody was around and nobody was behind him. When I said, ‘I’ve got a gun on you, don’t move,’ I think I frightened him and he threw his hands in the air.”
Calls placed to the Beadle and Lincoln County Sheriff’s Departments were not returned at the time this story was published.