Constable Adrian Dean was in pursuit.
He hitched a ride on a snowmobile to go after a thief who stole guns and jewellery, and then a John Deere tractor to use as a getaway vehicle. The chase lasted 45 minutes, topped out at about eight kilometres an hour, and ended with the tractor doing a complete flip in a snowy field near Blackfalds, Alta.
“It was one for the books,” Constable Dean said of Wednesday’s wintery chase. “It is very memorable. Yeah. Yeah. Very memorable.”
The fleeing suspect tore through about 10 fences and some steel cattle gates. He lifted the front-end bucket on the John Deere 6400 tractor to plow through trees. He chugged through multiple fields. And the $50,000 tractor was his third method of motorized escape.
The crime began on Wednesday afternoon as a break-in near Blackfalds (population: 7, 275) in rural Alberta – about halfway between Calgary and Edmonton. A man walked to a residence and nabbed firearms and jewellery and then stole a snowmobile. But the machine got stuck, so the alleged bad guy walked about three kilometres to another house and stole a Rhino off-road machine.
But the Rhino got stuck, Constable Dean said, so the man took a tractor from the same residence. The owner of that home, however, caught him in the act. The suspect took off, heading back to the first house in the tractor to collect his cache of stolen goods.
The keys had been in the tractor, RCMP said, and the area has had a string of thefts involving vehicles that were unlocked or had easy-to-find keys. The local RCMP members, who still measure distance and speed in miles, are warning residents to take the keys out of vehicles.
“We’re kind of telling people: ‘You know what? It is not Kansas any more. You got to protect your property,’” said Blackfalds’ Corporal Barry LaRocque. “At one time, the rural properties didn’t get the crime that was going on in the cities, but [thieves] are pushing out to the rural areas now.”
While investigating the report of a stolen tractor, Constable Dean said he saw someone walking in a field and asked a nearby snowmobiler for a ride.
“Oh, you’re looking for the guy in the tractor,” the civilian said, according to Constable Dean. “So I jumped on the back.”
The walker, however, was the snowmobiler’s wife, checking on a fence broken by the tractor. “So, then, since I was already on the back of this thing, we just continued following the tracks of the tractor.”
The manhunt was on.
Ten minutes later, they found the tractor. During the chase, it zig-zagged, with the driver knowing he was being pursued. The fields had about two or three feet of snow, and the tractor got stuck a few times. When the vehicle stalled going up a hill, Constable Dean went to extract the suspect from the cab. But the engine restarted, so the Mountie backed off.
“I’ve been in other situations a little more terrifying than that,” he said. “It was more a, ‘Oh my god, what’s next?’ kind of thing.”
With the tractor bucket in the air, the John Deere’s centre of gravity was off. It slipped down the hill, and rolled sideways – a complete flip. The driver was uninjured. The tractor was not.
The bashed up farm implement came to rest on its side, with some green metal scattered in the field. The engine still runs, the Mounties said. Five RCMP members were involved in the search, chase and arrest, Corporal Larocque said.
Jesse Cecka, 25, of no fixed address, was charged with break, enter, and theft; breach of existing court documents; multiple counts of mischief; and theft over $5,000 for the tractor. He had a court date on Thursday.
Corporal LaRocque said there was “likely some drug use involved.”
None of the allegations have been proven in court.