RICHLAND — The fast moving currents in the Columbia River weren't swift enough to keep a 27-year-old wanted suspect away from police Friday morning.
Eric Michael McDonald jumped into the river from Howard Amon Park after officers discovered he had four felony warrants out for his arrest, said Richland police Capt. Jeff Taylor.
McDonald, however, only lasted about 15 minutes in the frigid water before swimming back to shore.
"I didn't think he was going to last much longer," Taylor said as Richland medics loaded McDonald into an ambulance.
Officers on scene, including Benton County sheriff's deputies, were trying to get a sheriff's boat launched, and Columbia Basin Dive Rescue also was dispatched.
Neither were needed in the end.
The incident started around 11:30 a.m. when Richland officer were called to the 500 block of Barth Avenue because two men were acting suspiciously around the outside of a church, Taylor said.
The men did not appear to belong to the church and the caller said that it looked like they were up to no good, he said.
Officers contacted the men and one was identified as McDonald. When officers learned he had warrants and attempted to arrest him, McDonald ran away.
Officers chased McDonald into Howard Amon Park and watched as he jumped into the river, Taylor said. He swam until he was out of the reach of officers.
They then followed him along the shoreline as he floated downstream with the current.
He was in the water for about 15 minutes before he returned to shore near the Hampton Inn. Officers suspect fatigue and the water's temperature drove him to the shore.
"That's a desperate way to get away," one bystander said as he watched the action.
McDonald now faces an obstructing charge, in addition to his four outstanding warrants.