Deschutes County Sheriff Shane Nelson initiated a high-speed vehicle pursuit north of Bend on Thursday that resulted in an injured Bend Police officer and police dog and a totaled squad car.
Details are murky regarding the chase, which led to the arrest of a 19-year-old Lake Oswego man described by police as impaired and suicidal. But District Attorney John Hummel confirmed the sheriff initiated the pursuit. Nelson’s involvement had not been reported to the public.
Nelson did not return messages left Friday.
About 2:20 p.m. Thursday, a person called 911 to report that Zenler Allen Clairmont was impaired and possibly suicidal driving south on U.S. Highway 97, according to Hummel.
Nelson happened to be the officer closest to Clairmont’s 2010 Jeep Wrangler, Hummel said.
Nelson, who was driving his unmarked silver Dodge Charger, was returning from a meeting in the Redmond area, said sheriff’s spokesman Sgt. William Bailey.
Clairmont continued south at high speeds, at times crossing into oncoming lanes and avoiding multiple attempts by officers to stop him by using spike strips, Bailey said.
Nelson was forced to abandon his pursuit and pull over after driving over a set of spikes, Bailey said.
Clairmont allegedly turned onto NE Second Street off Butler Market Road, a road which has no outlet.
The pursuit ended when Clairmont struck a Bend Police patrol car on the side of the road, causing extensive damage to both vehicles.
Inside the squad car was officer Robert Pennock and his police dog, Ladybug, a 6-year-old Belgian malinois.
Pennock was in the area helping the sheriff’s office with the pursuit, but not actively involved in the chase, according to Bend Police.
Following the crash, Clairmont displayed multiple signs of impairment, according to the sheriff’s office.
Oregon State Police is investigating the crash.
Pennock suffered minor injuries and is recovering at home, according to Bend Police. Ladybug suffered a fractured vertebrate in her tail and is expected to be out of action for six to eight weeks. It’s unknown if she will require surgery.
OSP and the sheriff’s office declined to provide audio files from police radios, deferring instead to the district attorney.
In its news release on the incident, the sheriff’s office does not mention Nelson’s involvement and says only that a “deputy” spotted Clairmont’s Jeep.
Pursuits by sheriff’s deputies are governed by a policy approved and signed by Nelson in 2016.
To avoid injury to officers, the public or suspects, deputies are to engage in pursuits only when necessary.
Pursuits involving Central Oregon law enforcement agencies were once governed by an intergovernmental agreement that told officers engaging in pursuits to routinely consider whether to break off the pursuit.
The agreement was the product of a series of meetings in the late 1990s held in the aftermath of a bloody collision involving a pair of 14-year-old boys driving a stolen car.
Driver Michael Sandoval had crossed the centerline and collided with 59-year-old Sharon Eitzer, who was heading to Idaho to be with her pregnant daughter. Sandoval and Eitzer were pronounced dead at the scene.
Clairmont was arraigned Friday in Deschutes County Circuit Court and is being housed in Deschutes County jail.
He’s been indicted on 12 criminal counts — attempting to elude a police officer, DUI, second-degree animal abuse, second-degree assault, third-degree assault, reckless driving, two counts of first-degree criminal mischief and four counts of reckless endangering.
— Reporter: 541-383-0325, firstname.lastname@example.org