A man from Chaparral, in southern Dona Ana County, checked himself in to a hospital in El Paso this week, claiming to have overdosed on methamphetamine. He received treatment, but when he saw security approaching him, he bolted and ran for the parking lot.
There he spotted a 10-wheel fuel tanker truck idling with the driver waiting inside. He yanked the driver out of the cab of the tanker and them proceeded to speed off — well maybe lumber off is the more appropriate description.
The man led El Paso police on a chase along Interstate 10, crossing into New Mexico, but not heading towards his home on the opposite side of the Franklin Mountains. New Mexico State Police placed “stopsticks” in the roadway to rip oven the truck’s tires and bring the vehicle to a halt near Las Cruces. Police then arrested the man they described as being “out of it” but nonetheless compliant.
In addition to the $40,000 cost of the truck and its 10 now-flat tires, Police said the vehicle’s tank contained about 500 gallons of fuel worth $5,000 and the truck was carrying about $4,000 in special refueling equipment. Police had to close the Interstate briefly as a result of the incident.
Because he transported a vehicle across state lines, the suspect is now facing federal charges.
This incident raises several questions in my mind. First, why was a fuel tanker in the parking lot of a hospital? And second, how did the suspect get to the hospital in the first place? And if he drove himself there, why not use his own vehicle or something else faster and less visible than a large lumbering fuel tanker for the escape. And finally and perhaps most important, what was he going to do with all that fuel if he had succeeded in his escape? If convicted for his caper, he’ll have 10 years to think about that in federal prison.