Winnipeg Free Press - PRINT EDITION

Police catch fugitive in movie-style chase

Hijacked car with kids after being run over

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An escaped murder suspect wearing only underwear scaled down the outside of an apartment block, was run over by police on Portage Avenue, but still managed to hijack a car with two small children and elude police for an hour before officers caught him.

The children, aged 11 months and five years, were not harmed.

In a spectacular chase described by one officer as "nothing short of Hollywood,'' Derik Zarichanski was arrested, along with his grandmother, Jean Gartner, and another man, after he left the hijacked vehicle and the children and hopped into a waiting Pontiac Grand Am outside a St. Vital strip mall.

Undercover police in three vehicles, who said they had been trailing Gartner all day, then rammed the Grand Am as it was pulling onto St. Anne's Road. A police officer reportedly fired a shot at the vehicle before the arrests.

"It was a good end to a long saga," one of the officers involved said. "It got a little hairy for a moment or two, but it worked out well."

No one was injured during the arrest, although Zarichanski broke his ankle at some point during his run from police. Police say he could have broken it climbing down the Colony Square West block at 555 St. Mary Ave., or when he was hit by a pickup truck driven by officers on Portage Avenue near Memorial Boulevard.

His lawyer Martin Glazer said late yesterday Zarichanski was under heavy police guard at the Health Sciences Centre. Glazer had spoken briefly to Gartner, 53.

"She's traumatized, but relieved her grandson was not killed," he said.

Police say Zarichanski and Gartner face numerous charges.

Gartner, who raised Zarichanski, contacted the media Saturday after city police "visited" her La Salle business. She claimed she didn't know where he was, and that he told her he wouldn't be taken alive.

Witnesses and police say Zarichanski, a 20-year-old suspected drug dealer and gang member, cheated death several times yesterday during his flight.

The chase started at about 11:20 a.m. when police, including the emergency response unit, got a tip that Zarichanski was holed up with a girlfriend in a seventh floor suite at 555 St. Mary Ave.

Const. Bob Johnson said that at about 12:15 p.m., officers were preparing to move in for the arrest when they saw him climbing from the seventh floor balcony to an open court yard mezzanine.

He was wearing only designer boxer shorts and had dyed his dark brown hair a fluorescent orange.

Zarichanski then ran onto Portage Avenue, almost immediately running up to cars, trying to open driver's side doors.

"You'll just shake your head," RCMP spokesman Sgt. Steve Saunders said. "This is nothing short of Hollywood."

Witness Richard Fulham said he was driving on Portage when he saw the man running up to cars.

"There was a guy in a half-ton truck after him," Fulham said. "I didn't know what was going on at the time. I thought the guy in the truck was chasing the guy, like he was trying to collect a drug debt."

Fulham, a Winnipeg lawyer, said the fleeing man ran up to a mini van and a second car, trying to get in and overpower the drivers. Both drivers had locked their doors and drove away. Zarichanski then ran east towards The Bay and crossed the street in front of the Investors Group building.

Fulham said the pickup had sped down Portage and did a sharp U-turn at Vaughan, speeding towards the fleeing man.

"The truck hit him," Fulham said. "He just flew. He hit the ground and I didn't think he'd get up, but he did. It was just crazy. It looked like the people in the truck were trying to kill him.

"It hit him hard. The hood was dented. The bumper was dented and the lights were broken. I think he's got more injuries than a broken ankle."

Fulham said he called 911 to report the apparent accident. He said he found out later the truck driver was a police officer and the fleeing man with the orange hair was Zarichanski.

"It was a life and death run for him," he said.

Johnson said Zarichanski then ran towards Vaughan and around the corner, where he confronted a man driving a black Sunbird. It's believed the man had just dropped his wife off for work at Portage Place.

Johnson said Zarichanski smashed the driver's window out with his fists, opened the door and attacked the terrified father, his 11-month-old and five-year-old sons in the back seat.

Police sources say the man tried to fight back, but that Zarichanski pushed him out the passenger side door and sped away.

Saunders and Johnson both described Zarichanski's violent behavior as that of a "raving lunatic."

"It was beyond the control of the father to control the situation," Johnson said.

A short high-speed pursuit followed, but Zarichanski managed to evade police by racing through the city and running a number of red lights.

"The children were at great risk," Saunders said. "The level of this man's desperation is highlighted here."

What followed next remains unclear, but it's believed police lost Zarichanski at some point. Although there were several sightings of the fleeing Sunbird, it wasn't until 12:37 p.m. when Zarichanski pulled into the strip mall at St. Anne's Road and Worthington Avenue that the pieces quickly fell together for police.

Police believe Zarichanski may have somehow got a message to his grandmother to meet him at the mall, outside E'Clips Hair Salon.

He parked the Sunbird, leaving the two boys untouched, and jumped into the waiting Grand Am. Police were waiting nearby, and the arrests were made.

"But you've got to admit it, you've got to be a genius to get it all together like he did. You've got to be really smart, or really desperate."

An employee at neighbouring Autek Lab, who wouldn't give his name, said he stepped out of the store and thought a car accident was in progress.

Then he noticed several vehicles driving on St. Anne's --including a van going south in the north-bound lane -- and others blocking the parking lot at the strip mall.

"I saw a vehicle trying to get out of the parking lot," he said, from his store, which was still full of police officers after the incident.

"I saw a bunch of heavily armed officers swarm a car," he said. "They swarmed onto that car like a bunch of flies on doo-doo."

Before his escape, Zarichanski was being held at the Winnipeg Remand Centre charged with first-degree murder in the November 2001 slaying of Benjamin Marshall, whose body was found wrapped in plastic and duct tape and dumped outside the city. Marshall had been shot.

Zarichanski is also charged in the robberies of two rural Manitoba caisse populaires earlier this year. As well, he is charged with plotting to kill another man.

Police said he escaped Nov. 6 by allegedly picking his leg shackles with a smuggled key outside the Misericordia Health Centre. It's believed he deliberately injured his left hand to get a ride to hospital.

Johnson said the investigation is continuing into how Zarichanski was hit by the truck outside Investors Group and the reasons behind the shot being fired at the Grand Am.

Police also said the children and their father were quickly re-united and are being supplied counseling by the victim services unit.

bruce.owen@freepress.mb.ca
-- With files from Paul McKie and Mike McIntyre

Republished from the Winnipeg Free Press print edition November 26, 2002 $sourceSection$sourcePage

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