Man in stolen backhoe leads troopers on a snail's pace pursuit

The suspect drove the backhoe nearly 30 miles, refusing to pull over, police said

By Catalina Gaitán

CLACKAMAS COUNTY, Ore. — A 39-year-old Aloha man is facing felony charges after allegedly stealing a John Deere backhoe and driving it for nearly 30 miles, at one point fleeing a traffic stop, during a lengthy, slow-speed pursuit, officials said.

Clackamas County Sheriff’s Office deputies arrested Mitchell Johnston shortly after 1 a.m. in the Redland area, officials said.

The driver of a stolen backhoe refused to stop for Oregon State Troopers on Nov. 21, 2020.
The driver of a stolen backhoe refused to stop for Oregon State Troopers on Nov. 21, 2020. (Clackamas County Sheriff's Office)

An Oregon State Police trooper reported seeing a backhoe driving near Interstate 205 and Highway 213 after midnight on Sunday. When the trooper signaled for the vehicle to pull over, officials said Johnston drove the backhoe the wrong way up the highway on-ramp and disappeared, officials said.

A Clackamas County Sheriff’s Office deputy spotted the backhoe shortly after 1 a.m. on South Fischers Mill Road. The driver was going about 20 miles per hour down the rural country road, straddling the double yellow line and at times driving on the wrong side of the road, officials said.

When deputies pulled Johnston over west of Hattan Road, he first told them he was lost, but later said he had stolen the backhoe from a lot in Beaverton, officials said.

Johnston is facing four felony charges, including first degree aggravated theft, unauthorized use of a vehicle, attempt to elude a police officer and driving while suspended.

The backhoe was taken from a lot owned by CivilWorks NW, a Vancouver-based construction company, court records show.

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