A group of young adults stole a Chevrolet Impala Wednesday evening whose owner left it unlocked and idling outside an East Anchorage business. They just hopped in and drove off, say police.
"It's a common problem during the winter time," said Anchorage Police Department spokesperson Dani Myren, "and it can be an easy target for vehicle thieves."
An Anchorage Police Department officer attempted to stop the Impala for a traffic violation near 36th Avenue and Lake Otis Parkway shortly after 10 p.m. The officer flipped on his overhead lights, and the suspect vehicle sped off. The officer did not race through the streets of Anchorage after the suspect for safety reasons, according to an Anchorage Police Department press release.
After midnight, another officer spotted and identified the vehicle near 36th Avenue and A Street. Officers coordinated and tried to stop the vehicle at Denali Street and Benson Boulevard. The driver, 19-year-old Darin Smith, wasn't having it. Smith allegedly swerved toward and rammed into an officer's patrol car. He continued on a path of destruction but his driving skills failed him when he slid into a snowbank just past Northern Lights Boulevard on Denali Street.
Four of the Impala's occupants continued the escape on foot, but officers apprehended all four after a short chase. A fifth occupant stayed in the vehicle, according to the press release.
Why the officers used force during a Tuesday morning car chase that ended in the death of a 25-year-old Anchorage resident and did not use force during Wednesday's smash-and-run will become clear when the Police Deparment finishes its investigation of the latter, Myren said. Both incidents featured drivers ramming police cars.
Smith was charged with first-degree vehicle theft, two counts of first-degree failing to stop at the direction of an officer, as well as assault and criminal mischief charges. He was taken to the Anchorage Jail with a $15,000 cash-only bond.
Darien Jeter, 20, was charged with fifth-degree criminal mischief and first-degree vehicle theft. Cynthia Curtis, 18, and Anecia Romie, 19, were charged with resisting arrest; both were released from custody. A fifth, unnamed 19-year-old was not charged.
Contact Jerzy Shedlock at jerzy(at)alaskadispatch.com