By T.L. PETERSEN
Of The (La Grande) Observer
LA GRANDE andquot;I got a call that there was some money blowing on the road,andquot; Elgin Police Chief Dayton Sibley remembered this morning.
Sibley didn't get too excited. That kind of call happens now and then in Elgin, as people forget their wallet left atop a car, or their deposit gets away from them.
But the call at 3:30 p.m. Monday was different. There had been a bank robbery.
Sibley, about a block and a half away from the US Bank Elgin branch office at 800 Alder St., soon saw people running from the bank and yelling that it had been robbed by a man with a gun.
Three bank employees had been held at gunpoint, although no shots were fired.
andquot;I was about 30 seconds behind them,andquot; Sibley estimates of the robbers.
Sibley was soon following driver Tracy Wayne Humphreys, 29, and alleged robber Paul Joseph Kolar, 23, escapees from the Benewah County (St. Maries), Idaho, jail. The two fled south along Highway 82 toward Imbler and La Grande in a stolen red Subaru Legacy. The vehicle allegedly was the second car the duo had stolen since escaping from the jail in St. Maries around 9 p.m. Sunday.
Sibley sited the suspects near Indian Creek, just south of Elgin. He estimates that in the next miles, the suspects and his patrol car hit speeds of 110 to 120 mph.
andquot;I think they did Elgin to La Grande in about seven minutes,andquot; Sibley said.
As the speeding Subaru headed into Imbler, Sibley said his radar equipment clocked it as going 98 mph. He backed off, he added, hoping that the suspects who appeared to be having trouble controlling the Subaru would slow down in case there were schoolchildren about.
As the chase neared milepost 5 just north of Island City, speeds had climbed back to about 110 to 115 mph.
andquot;I think they blew their engine,andquot; Sibley said of Humphreys and Kolar.
The Subaru slowed and went over a low embankment, ending up in some mud, the police chief said.
andquot;I baled out and started yelling at them to get on the ground. I took them down at gunpoint.andquot;
Humphreys, the suspected driver, obeyed quickly, Sibley said, while Kolar, believed to have been the hold-up man, started across a field and then stopped.
Union County Sheriff Steve Oliver and OSP Lt. Reg Madsen arrived on the scene, heading up a group of seven or more deputies and troopers and took the two men into custody while Sibley kept them at gunpoint.
Deputies already had placed a spike strip just ahead of where the two suspects crashed, near the Boise Cascade particleboard plant.
As it turned out, Oliver said, information on Humphreys from other law enforcement sources warned that he should be treated with caution as a dangerous suspect. Officers in the Salem area, Oliver said, are interested in questioning Humphreys in regards to the murder of a child.
Kolar, from North Idaho, was being held in Benewah County on a felony conviction and was awaiting transfer to the Idaho state prison system.
Both are under andquot;real tight securityandquot; at the Union County jail, Oliver said.
Their fate, Oliver added, will be up to district attorneys in Oregon and Idaho.
Sibley said he would be talking to Union County District Attorney Russ West this morning. In addition, officers are expected to get a search warrant this morning to go over the suspects' vehicle.
The Subaru is believed to have been stolen from Plummer, a community on the Coeur d'Alene Indian Reservation. Police in North Idaho said the vehicle belongs to Kolar's mother and is used in delivering the mail.
Humphreys and Kolar, Benewah County Sheriff Bill Tharp said, escaped from the top floor of the 80-year-old county jail by lowering themselves to the street using a rope made of bed sheets. According to Tharp, the suspects had been in an exercise area and were left too long there, allowing them to dig away at a plaster wall with tools made from a light fixture.
Sibley said he believes all the money taken from the Elgin bank has been recovered, thanks in part to local citizens who gathered up the dropped cash. The exact amount of money taken is being determined.