Wanted man runs from, then to, troopers

Casey Grove

After leading Alaska State Troopers on a car chase and fleeing into the wilderness for about 22 hours, a wanted Anchorage man hitchhiked to a Girdwood gas station next door to the local trooper post.

James Lee III, 36, was arrested a short time later, following treatment for exposure and hypothermia, troopers said.

A trooper recognized Lee as a wanted felon while Lee was driving a pickup on the Seward Highway about 3:20 p.m. Monday, a troopers spokeswoman said. Another trooper checked the pickup's license plate, learned it had been stolen, and tried to stop the pickup near Mile 100, according to a trooper dispatch posted online. But Lee kept driving south another 23 miles until troopers used a spike strip to puncture and deflate the pickup's tires, bringing it to a stop, the dispatch says.

Then, Lee ran.

He went into a wooded area on the highway's west side. According to the dispatch, "he was last seen actively evading troopers on foot and refusing any type of assistance. He was not dressed for the elements or terrain."

Troopers, U.S. Marshals, officers with the U.S. Forest Service and Anchorage Police Department and the troopers' Robinson R-44 helicopter, Helo 3, searched for Lee to no avail. A trooper received medical treatment for exposure to cold weather, and a Forest Service officer who fell during the search also received treatment for minor injuries, troopers said.

About 2:30 p.m. Tuesday, troopers got a call that a man was trying to get medical help at the Tesoro gas station in Girdwood, about 300 feet from the Girdwood troopers post. The man, later identified as Lee, flagged down a motorist on the Seward Highway who gave him a ride to the gas station, troopers said. Lee told someone at the gas station he had wrecked a snowmachine and needed to get to a hospital, troopers said.

Troopers took Lee to an Anchorage hospital, where he was treated for hypothermia and exposure, then arrested Lee on warrants for felony theft and vehicle theft charges, troopers spokeswoman Megan Peters said. A troopers sergeant was still working on new charges Wednesday related to the Monday chase, Peters said.

Reach Casey Grove at casey.grove@adn.com or 257-4589.