Police are still searching for the driver of a stolen SUV after a high-speed chase in Windham turned into an extensive manhunt last Friday.

K-9 units and four police departments canvassed an area near the Windham/Westbrook border where the driver crashed a Jeep Grand Cherokee and then fled on foot, but the manhunt proved unsuccessful. Police are now processing evidence and have several suspects in the case.

At approximately 2:17 p.m., Cumberland County Sheriff’s Deputy Steven Lathrop passed a stolen 1997 Jeep on Route 202 near the intersection of Falmouth Road.

Lathrop turned around, pulled over the jeep and performed a “felony stop,” ordering the man to get out of the car. But as Lathrop approached the Jeep, the driver took off at a high rate of speed.

Deputy Lathrop got back in his cruiser and pursued the Jeep through the routes 302/202 rotary toward Westbrook on Route 302. Near the Westbrook line, the Jeep driver attempted to elude the deputy by pulling onto Vance Drive next to the site of D&J Excavating currently under re-construction. The Jeep driver was unable to negotiate the turn and slammed into a bulldozer parked on the property. The driver then fled on foot.

“There was a screech and then boom,” said Jenessa Vance who witnessed the incident. “And in the blink of an eye, he was gone.”

She and others were working that day to rebuild D&J Excavating after a fire destroyed the company’s headquarters last May. The workers were immediately suspicious of the driver, Vance said, because he took off running.

Steve Cable, another D&J employee, chased after the suspect on foot.

“He took off behind the apartments,” Cable said. “He then went into some bushes and I lost him.”

Windham and Westbrook police, the Cumberland County Sheriff’s Department and Maine State Police sent K-9 units to track the fleeing man and conducted a manhunt of the area near the Windham/Westbrook border, but were unable to find the suspect. Capt. William Rhoads of the Sheriff’s Department said the man may have doubled back toward Route 302 and got a ride.

The stolen Jeep is being “processed” for DNA evidence and fingerprints. Police also found .22 caliber ammunition in the vehicle.

Police describe the suspect as in his late 20s with blond hair and a goatee, standing 5 feet 10 inches tall and weighing between 160 and 180 pounds. He was wearing a Yankees ball cap, jeans and a dark-colored sweatshirt with white sleeves on the day he fled.

Anyone who may have seen a man matching this description or anything suspicious that afternoon, shoulod call Det. Josh Potvin at the Cumberland County Sheriff’s Department: 774-1444 ext. 2157.

Though the vehicle did suffer heavy front-end damage, the stolen Jeep will be returned to its South Portland owner once the Cumberland County Sheriff’s Department has finished their investigation.

This stolen Jeep Grand Cherokee crashed here at the site of D&J Excavating after a high-speed chase on Route 302. The suspect fled on foot and is still at large.

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