December 7, 2019

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Driver of stolen fire truck was impaired, police allege

Police officers and fire crews survey the damage on a stolen fire truck that was stopped by a police vehicle under the Donald Street Bridge on Assiniboine Avenue Friday. (Ruth Bonneville / Winnipeg Free Press files)</p>

Police officers and fire crews survey the damage on a stolen fire truck that was stopped by a police vehicle under the Donald Street Bridge on Assiniboine Avenue Friday. (Ruth Bonneville / Winnipeg Free Press files)

The 36-year-old man accused of stealing a fire truck and leading police on a chase through downtown Winnipeg Friday has been charged with impaired driving.

On Saturday, police identified the suspect as Bai Farama Koroma. Koroma is accused of driving away in a fire engine that was parked in the 1600 block of Henderson Highway while Winnipeg Fire Paramedic workers were responding to a call there around 12:30 Friday afternoon.

He's been charged with theft of a motor vehicle, two counts of failing to stop at the scene of an accident, operation of a conveyance while impaired by alcohol or drugs, dangerous driving, possession of a weapon, fleeing while being pursued by a police officer, and driving without a valid licence.

The charges come after a dramatic police chase that caused thousands of dollars in damage during a 15-minute time span through the downtown and ended with the suspect being Tasered by police Friday. The chase began after the stolen fire truck rear-ended a half-ton truck that was driving southbound on Henderson Highway at Donalda Avenue. The driver of the half-ton pulled over to let the fire truck pass, but the fire truck instead crashed into the other vehicle and didn't stop. The driver wasn't hurt but the half-ton truck was severely damaged and sheared off a hydro pole during the crash, police said in a news release.

An off-duty firefighter witnessed the crash and saw that the fire truck wasn't being driven by Winnipeg Fire Paramedic staff, police said.

The driver of the fire truck caused an estimated $5,000 in damages downtown as he sped up to 70 kilometres an hour, ran red lights and drove the wrong way on one-way streets. Police used tire-deflation devices that eventually stopped the fire truck at Assiniboine Avenue and Carlton Street, and a general patrol officer used a Taser to take down the suspect.

WPS officers were able to deploy several tire-deflation devices which eventually rendered the firetruck inoperable on Assiniboine Avenue beneath the Midtown Bridge. A WPS General Patrol officer deployed a conducted energy weapon (Taser) in order to take the suspect into custody.

Koroma was detained in custody.

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History

Updated on Sunday, December 1, 2019 at 9:18 AM CST: Specifies truck rendered inoperable by the time it was beneath the Midtown Bridge

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