Members of a regional SWAT team arrested a man at the Baker City Airport Tuesday afternoon after he drove a bus onto a runway and then refused to leave, forcing the city-owned airport to close for most of the day.
Scott William Chase, 46, was arrested about 4:50 p.m.
Chase, who is a transient, was evaluated by mental health professionals before being taken to the Baker County Jail, according to the Baker County Sheriff’s Office.
Chase is charged with hit and run (property), first-degree criminal mischief, criminal trespassing while in possession of a firearm, first-degree disorderly conduct and improper use of 911.
According to court records, in 1997 Chase, then living in Baker City, was arrested in Union County on charges of first-degree aggravated animal abuse, possession of a controlled substance and second-degree criminal mischief.
He did not go to trial, however, after it was determined that he had a mental disease or defect and was unable to stand trial.
Baker County Undersheriff Jef Van Arsdall said sheriff’s deputies had a “contact” with Chase — he wasn’t arrested — in November 2017. Van Arsdall didn’t have details of that contact.
He said the Sheriff’s Office has a record of only one other contact with Chase, which also didn’t result in an arrest, from 2014.
The Northeast Oregon Regional SWAT team was called out about 2:34 p.m., after officers from the Sheriff’s Office and the Baker City Police Department had tried, without success, to persuade Chase to exit the converted school bus he was driving, according to the Sheriff’s Office.
He had driven to the east side of the airport, where he parked and stayed inside the bus.
The airport is about 3 miles north of Baker City, and just east of Interstate 84.
The SWAT members arrested Chase “without incident” after he “willingly” walked out of the bus, Van Arsdall said.
Police found firearms inside the bus.
Reports to police about Chase actually started early Tuesday in Halfway, where Chase allegedly drove into a shop or garage at Pine Telephone Co., Van Arsdall said.
That incident prompted the hit and run charge.
Van Arsdall said Chase had spent much time in the Oxbow and Homestead areas at the eastern end of Baker County near the Idaho border.
Baker City Police received a complaint about Chase from McDonald’s in Baker City later Tuesday morning, and his bus was also seen on Windmill Lane just east of the Campbell Street interchange, Van Arsdall said.
Chase arrived at the airport around 8:30 a.m. Tuesday.
Dustin Stephens, the chief pilot for Baker Aircraft, which runs the fueling, flight instruction and other services at the city-owned airport, said he watched the bus drive onto a taxiway beside the airport’s main runway. That’s an area open only to aircraft, Stephens said.
He said he and two other employees drove out to talk to the driver of the bus, who rolled down the window and “started screaming at us,” Stephens said.
He said the man told the Baker Aircraft employees that a “big jet” was coming to pick him up, and that the plane would also haul away his bus.
Stephens said the man claimed to have “nuclear” materials on the bus.
Stephens said the man drove away, the bus going fast enough that when he turned the vehicle tipped significantly.
Police closed the airport as well as South Airport Lane, which leads to the airport entrance.
Troy Woydziak, Baker Aircraft owner, said he issued a notice to pilots alerting them to the closure. He re-opened the airport Tuesday evening.
The Baker City Airport has three runways, but depending on the amount of snow, at times only the main runway is open, Woydziak said.
See more in the Jan. 9, 2019, issue of the Baker City Herald.