SANDY — A police chase from Lehi to Sandy ended in a spectacular crash Monday when the fleeing vehicle hit a concrete divider and launched onto the bed of a pickup truck.
Ramen Q. Powell, 27, was arrested and booked into the Utah County Jail for investigation of aggravated robbery, theft, evading and four counts of aggravated assault for attempting to hit four police officers during the chase, according to police.
A woman with Powell remained in the hospital with undisclosed injuries Monday but was expected to be arrested and booked after she was released.
The incident began about 9:15 a.m. at Wal-Mart, 949 W Grassland Drive in American Fork, when a brazen shoplifter loaded a shopping cart with expensive electronic items including flat-screen TVs and Blu-Ray machines, said American Fork Police Lt. Sam Liddiard.
A store employee attempted to question the man. The man said he left his wallet in the car and walked out to his vehicle while leaving the shopping cart in the store, Liddiard said.
But, just a few minutes later, he walked back into the store and grabbed the shopping cart and again tried to walk out with it, the lieutenant said. When the employee tried to stop him again, the man allegedly attempted to slash the employee with a knife. No one was injured.
The employee let the man take the items to his car at that point and then called police as he watched him load shoplifted items into his vehicle, according to Liddiard.
Responding officers spotted the fleeing Cadillac as they headed toward Wal-Mart.
During the ensuing chase, the man made a turn down a dead-end road, Liddiard said. The driver then made a U-turn and drove head-on toward two pursuing police vehicles, he said. Each officer had to swerve off the road to avoid being hit.
Later, a Lehi police officer attempted to spike the fleeing vehicle's tires. But while he was setting up the spike strip, the man aimed his vehicle at the officer who had to dive out of the way, Liddiard said.
A second Lehi officer successfully spiked one of the fleeing vehicle's tires. But Powell allegedly tried to hit that officer, too.
Despite one of their tires being punctured, the man and a woman inside the vehicle continued onto northbound I-15. Speeds from the chase got up to between 90 mph and 100 mph, Liddiard said. Debris from the spiked tire kept breaking off onto the road.
"It is incredible. As you look at those two vehicles, it's amazing to see that no one at all was hurt in this accident — you've got one vehicle on top of another one."
The chase continued to the 9000 South off-ramp from I-15 where the fleeing suspects — now driving on three tires and one rim — attempted to take a turn at the bottom of the off-ramp at a high rate of speed, said Sandy Police Sgt. Jon Arnold. Instead, the driver hit the concrete barrier that divided the eastbound and westbound lanes, and launched into the air, striking a SUV before the front end came to rest in the back of Bill Meighan's truck.
"I had just stopped for the light and I heard police sirens in the background, so I looked to my left and saw at least a half dozen police cars coming down the ramp. The next thing I know, a car struck me from the side and ended up on the back of my pickup truck," he said. "I never even saw the car approaching, to be honest."
Meighan said if the car had not struck another vehicle first, "it probably would have come through my front window."
After the crash, several officers approached the wrecked vehicle with guns drawn. Meighan said he and his dogs lay down in the cab of his truck until they were sure it was safe. No shots were fired.
The suspects did not try to run after the accident. The car they were driving was beleived to be stolen.
Meighan was not injured. Both suspects were taken to a local hospital for undisclosed minor injuries.
“It is incredible,” Liddiard said. “As you look at those two vehicles, it’s amazing to see that no one at all was hurt in this accident — you’ve got one vehicle on top of another one.”
Police shut down 9000 South as investigators collected evidence from the accident, and the trunk of the Cadillac.
"Some of the items taken were some big-screen TVs, flat-screen TVs, some clothing items and other things were put into a cart," Liddiard said. "All of the property that we've taken out of the vehicle, the flat screen TVs, were taken from Wal-Mart.
Court records show Powell has a lengthy criminal history, and even had a warrant issued for his arrest Monday in a separate case for assault by a prisoner, a third-degree felony.
He pleaded guilty to felony shoplifting in both December and January incidents. In the December case, Powell tried to create a distraction at a Smith's store while a woman tried to walk out with a cart full of merchandise, according to court records.
Powell was also convicted on a drug distribution charge in 2011. He was given probation but then served six months in jail for failing to comply with the conditions of his probation, court records state. In another case in 2011 he was convicted of felony theft.
Contributing: Sandra Yi