Authorities in Audubon County said today (Monday), they are still looking for the driver of an SUV who eluded deputies and police following a traffic stop and pursuit early Sunday morning. Audubon County Sheriff Todd Johnson told KJAN News Sunday, that a deputy attempted to conduct a traffic stop at around midnight Saturday on Highway 71, near Exira. The vehicle, a blue Dodge Durango with Nebraska plates, sped-off as the deputy approached.
The chase that ensued wound its way south to Brayton and then back north on Highway 71 to Exira. Audubon Police laid down stop sticks in an attempt to disable the SUV, but the unidentified driver took evasive action and drove into the east ditch before traveling on the T-Bone bike trail. The deputy stayed on Highway 71 until Exira, where he blocked the bike trail. When the SUV left the trail and veered into the ditch to avoid the deputy’s cruiser, it hit some debris (trees and brush) and became immobilized.
The driver took off on foot and made his way to the West Nishnabotna River. The passenger, 32-year old Aaron Charles Whitehill, of Omaha, was arrested at around 2:30-a.m., Sunday. Whitehill faces charges that include Possession of Drug Paraphernalia, Possession of a Controlled Substance/Marijuana – 3rd offense, and Possession of a Controlled Substance -Methamphetamine, 3rd offense. Whitehill was being held in the Audubon County Jail on $5,000 bond.
The Cass County K-9 team of Deputy Kyle Quist and his partner “Vader” tracked the driver to the river’s edge, where the scent was lost. Sheriff Johnson says they believe the suspect entered the river, which was near full and very cold. While the k-9 team was tracking the suspect, “Vader” suffered a laceration to his paw and was treated near the scene by Quist, thanks to Med Kits provided to the County’s K-9 units by the Cass County Attorney’s Office.
Residents in the area where the suspect disappeared were warned by authorities to lock their vehicles, but Johnson says a vehicle that was reported stolen near Exira, may be been taken by the suspect. The vehicle was described as being a red, Ford F-350 regular cab pickup with Audubon County plates.
Agencies assisting the Audubon County Sheriff’s Office during the incident included the Audubon P-D, Iowa Dept. of Natural Resources and the Cass County Sheriff’s Dept. k-9 unit.