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Low-speed car chase locks down Oak Harbor schools

Three police cars were damaged, schools were locked down and a dog was almost shot during a slow-speed chase throughout Oak Harbor that ended with a Taser shot.

Police arrested a 25-year-old man on a felony warrant out of Vancouver and a 24-year-old woman, who was driving the attempted-get-away vehicle, on suspicion of attempting to elude pursuing police vehicles. Their pit bull is in custody at the animal shelter.

Capt. Rick Wallace with the Oak Harbor Police said investigators found evidence that the couple, who were living in Oak Harbor for an unknown amount of time, were involved in fraud and identity theft.

Wallace said the incident began when a detective received a tip at about 12:45 p.m. Wednesday that Joseluis Broeke, wanted on an armed robbery warrant out of Vancouver, Wash., was outside the old Godfather’s Pizza building at Highway 20 and Barrington Drive. Police immediately went to the location.

Broeke was hard to miss. The tipster said Broeke’s hair was dyed bright red and he would be in a Chevy Blazer towing a U-Haul trailer.

Wallace said officers spotted Broeke in the passenger seat of the Blazer and trailer as it was leaving the parking lot. Broeke’s apparent girlfriend, Jennifer Griffen, was driving.

Wallace said Griffen refused to pull over, so four police cars pursued the Blazer all over the city for more than 10 minutes. She led police to the highway, Whidbey Avenue, Midway Boulevard, Regatta Drive and other side roads, but barely went over the speed limit the entire time.

“The officers felt that they were trying to find a good place to bail out,” Wallace said.

At approximately 12:50 p.m., police requested the school district lock down all of its schools throughout the duration of the chase.

Joe Hunt, communication director for the school district, said the high school was locked down for approximately eight minutes. Olympic View Elementary School was locked down as well, while the other schools were in the process of locking down before the police told them the chase was over.

Hunt said he didn’t of any other time that all the schools were asked to be locked down at the same time. He added that school officials met Thursday to talk about how to communicate faster among the schools should such a situation arise again.

Wallace said Griffen eventually drove out of the city, on the highway north of town, and turned onto Case Road, which dead ends. She swung the vehicle into a police car near the intersection, damaging the driver’s side of the car, he said.

The suspects tried to get away by driving into a field at the dead end. Officers positioned their cars to block the Blazer from going back onto the road.

Griffen rammed into two police cars, Wallace said, but the police were able to stop the Blazer. Broeke tried to run away, but an officer shot him with a Taser gun, incapacitating him.

Wallace said Griffen sustained minor face injuries from the crash and was transported to Whidbey General Hospital for treatment.

The couple also had a pitbull dog with them in the Blazer. Wallace said the dog became aggressive toward officers and charged them.

“The dog almost got shot a number of times,” he said.

A dog-loving police sergeant, however, felt that the pitbull was just scared and wasn’t a menace. He called the dog over to himself and calmed him down.

The animal control officer brought the dog to the animal shelter, which is managed by the non-profit Whidbey Animal Improvement Foundation.

Sheri Bibich, a shelter manager for WAIF, said staff recognized the dog as Chingo. He’s a “sweetheart,” she said, and has been at the shelter many, many times before.

“Of all the pitbulls we’ve had, he’s one of my favorites,” Bibich said. “He’s just a sweet, sweet dog.”

Chingo will likely be up for adoption in six days.

Meanwhile, police continue to investigate the case. Wallace said detectives searched the car and found fake IDs and stolen mail, evidence of possible identity theft.

One of the police cars sustained serious enough damage that it had to be taken out of service. The other two had minor damage, but they are still on the roads.

—Staff reporter Nathan Whalen contributed to this story.

You can reach Jessie Stensland at jstensland@whidbeynewstimes.com or 675-6611.

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