Pickup driver escapes after chase through base

Casey Grove

Joint Base Elmendorf-Richardson security shot at a pickup that was illegally driven through a base gate early Saturday, traveling about eight miles across the military installation before escaping out the same gate.

The driver of the blue 1994 GMC Sierra was still on the loose late Saturday, according to Anchorage police and a base spokesman. Authorities know the pickup's license plate number -- 3605DB -- but JBER spokesman Maj. Joseph Coslett declined to name its registered owner or say if police have yet contacted the man.

The pickup was driven through the base's gate at Boniface Parkway about 12 a.m. Saturday and led security forces on a chase, Coslett said. Another base spokesman, Sgt. Brian Jones, said the chase reached speeds of more than 60 mph as the pickup headed west on Arctic Warrior Drive.

Coslett said there was an "escalation of force" in trying to stop the pickup but declined to say what specific methods military police used or how many personnel were involved.

"As he's driving it around, he's aiming it at our security forces, thus making it a weapon," Coslett said. "Obviously, they tried different measures to use only the right force necessary to safely stop the vehicle."

The security personnel fired "several rounds" at the pickup with 9mm handguns in an attempt to disable it, Coslett said. It's unclear how many of the shots struck the vehicle, he said.

Jones said the pickup made it to the base's gate in Government Hill, at the west end of Arctic Warrior Drive, which was blocked as usual at that time of night.

"He got to Government Hill gate, found that he couldn't escape and reversed his path back to the Boniface gate," Jones said.

"For the most part, it was a high speed chase between the two gates," Coslett said.

The pickup's driver drove the four miles back to the Boniface gate and escaped, Coslett said. The encounter prompted base officials to close the gate for seven hours.

As military and city police, as well as Alaska State Troopers, look for the suspect driver, an investigation into how the man was able to drive on and off the base is under way, Coslett said.

"The biggest thing is, it is on base, so there are a lot of security concerns," Coslett said. "Of course, there are a lot of unanswered questions. That's why we have investigations -- to try to make sure, either if we have to change our measures, upgrade our measures, whatever we have to do."

"The reason why we have an investigation is to make sure this doesn't happen again, to see what went right and what went wrong," he said.

Authorities described the driver only as a white man, offering no other identifying characteristics.

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