Two teenagers stole a front-end loader in West Gardiner early Monday and led police on a low-speed chase through Sabattus and Lewiston, deliberately crashing into two vehicles and traveling south on the Maine Turnpike for several miles.

Their perilous, 30-mile thrill ride finally came to an end in New Gloucester, where they were arrested after police shot out the tires of the loader because it had hit a car on the northbound side of the divided highway, police said in a news release.

Lewiston police Lt. Mark Cornelio said officers responded to a call around 4:50 a.m. to assist Androscoggin County sheriff’s deputies who were trying to stop the road construction-style loader as it traveled into the city on Route 126. The loader, which was reported stolen in West Gardiner, had been damaging fire hydrants, mailboxes and other property along the mostly rural road, police said.

At Fielder’s Choice ice cream parlor at 637 Gardiner Road in Sabattus, the loader knocked down a lighted, 14-foot-tall sign. A security video camera captured the loader driving away around 3:30 a.m., manager Nate Jillson said. Jillson saw the downed $8,000 sign when he arrived at the family business at 8:30 a.m.

“It’s a 6-by-4-foot lighted sign on a three-quarter-inch-thick steel post, so it’s pretty hefty,” Jillson said. “We’re laughing about it, but I know my dad’s not too happy about it.”

In Lewiston, after the driver of the loader refused to stop for police and started swerving into the lane of oncoming traffic, police drove ahead of the loader to block streets. From outer Sabattus Street, the loader traveled along several streets at speeds ranging from 8-30 mph, police said.


Several times, the operator of the loader swerved at Lewiston police cruisers and eventually hit one, police said. The officer driving the cruiser was not injured.

After traveling the wrong way on a one-way street, the operator drove the loader onto Route 196 and then onto the Maine Turnpike, which is part of Interstate 95. The loader traveled southbound with Lewiston police officers in pursuit.

Maine State Police were notified once the loader entered the turnpike.

In New Gloucester, the driver of the loader crossed the highway median and started traveling south in the northbound lanes. Lewiston police traveled ahead of the loader in an attempt to block the lanes, police said.

Police said the driver of the loader deliberately hit a car that was traveling north on the turnpike.

“Fearing possible loss of life due to the erratic and dangerous operation, a Lewiston police officer fired three shots at the tires of the loader,” Cornelio said. “The end result was that the operator stopped the loader and the chase ended.”


No one was injured in the chase.

Police arrested two 14-year-old boys and transported them to the Long Creek Youth Development Center in South Portland. State police, the Androscoggin County Sheriff’s Office and Lewiston police are investigating the incident.

“Charges will be forthcoming,” Cornelio said.

The Office of the Maine Attorney General will conduct its own investigation, which is standard with any officer-involved shooting.


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