Richland man arrested after high-speed chase

RICHLAND — Richland police arrested a man Tuesday after a high-speed chase forced other traffic off the road between Richland and Benton City.

Officers used a spike strip at Highway 240 and Logston Boulevard to puncture the white 2005 Nissan Sentra's tires to get the driver to stop.

The driver, Elvis Camillo Lopez, 26, of Richland, also was driving the wrong way on Highway 240, passing cars and running traffic off the road.

Benton County Sheriff's units attempted to move in front of Lopez's car after it hit the spike strip with all four tires. Lopez struck the patrol car and then backed into a second patrol car before stopping on Jadwin Avenue between Van Giesen and Torbett streets, police say.

Benton County Sheriff's deputies fired a Taser at Lopez when he got out of the car armed with a folding knife.

Lopez was arrested on suspicion of DUI, simple assault, stealing a vehicle, two counts of eluding and four counts of assault on police officers for hitting four police vehicles.

The incident began at 3:22 p.m. when Richland police responded to reports of an assault at 1409 Thayer Drive. Lopez and his girlfriend apparently had broken up the night before, and Lopez returned Tuesday to confront her, said Richland Sgt. Brian Ruegsegger.

Lopez is suspected of pushing his girlfriend, then stealing her car before officers arrived. Police began their pursuit at 3:33 p.m.

Richland Officer Tom Croskrey said the pursuit stopped near Jason Lee Elementary School when Lopez reached speeds of 50 mph in a 25 mph zone.

"Once I thought it was obvious he wasn't going to stop, and the fact that school had just gotten out, I decided to back off," Croskrey said. He estimated that Lopez may have been driving as fast as 80 mph.

Lopez also was on his cell phone with his girlfriend and police during the pursuit, police said, which is how they located him in Benton City at 4:42 p.m.

The spike strip helped end the chase at 5:21 p.m.

Officers from Richland, the Washington State Patrol, West Richland and Benton County Sheriff's Office helped in the chase.

One woman who lives in the 1600 block of Jadwin Avenue reported hearing sirens and two Richland police cars whiz by her home, then saw what appeared to be another 10 to 14 other police cars join in.

The woman, who asked not to be named, said, "This is the Tri-Cities. We don't get this kind of stuff here like Los Angeles. It's pretty interesting."

* Kai-Huei Yau: 509-585-7205;