Deputies use PIT maneuver to stop man evading law enforcement, endangering public

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  • Lincoln County Sheriff's deputies John Davis and Brandon Holzer investigate a crash on Pipe Creek Road Monday. It stemmed from a man's refusal to stop for Holzer in Libby. (John Blodgett/The Western News)

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    Libby Police Officer Chris Pape, left, and Lincoln County Sheriff’s deputies John Davis, center, and Brandon Holzer confer at a crash site near mile marker 4 on Pipe Creek Road Monday. The incident stemmed from a Libby man’s refusal to pull over for Holzer in downtown Libby. (John Blodgett/The Western News)

  • Lincoln County Sheriff's deputies John Davis and Brandon Holzer investigate a crash on Pipe Creek Road Monday. It stemmed from a man's refusal to stop for Holzer in Libby. (John Blodgett/The Western News)

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    Libby Police Officer Chris Pape, left, and Lincoln County Sheriff’s deputies John Davis, center, and Brandon Holzer confer at a crash site near mile marker 4 on Pipe Creek Road Monday. The incident stemmed from a Libby man’s refusal to pull over for Holzer in downtown Libby. (John Blodgett/The Western News)

A Libby man remained jailed on $300,000 bond Thursday after a Monday evening incident that began when he refused to pull over for a deputy and ended after three law enforcement vehicles were damaged while stopping him.

Caleb Covey, 31, was arrested on suspicion of assault on a peace officer and criminal endangerment, both felonies, and aggravated DUI and eluding a peace officer, both misdemeanors, according to court documents.

The incident began in downtown Libby about 7 p.m. Monday, when Lincoln County Sheriff's Deputy Brandon Holzer went to pull over Covey after he was reported to have violated a no-contact order, Under Sheriff Brian Griffeth said Thursday.

Covey refused to pull over for Holzer and kept driving. According to an affidavit filed by Deputy Steve Short, Holzer followed Covey and radioed for backup, advising that Covey had told him to “stay back/be careful.”

Covey eventually drove onto California Avenue and headed north across the Kootenai River. Holzer stayed close behind, relaying their location over his radio as Short, Deputy John Davis and Libby Police Officer Chris Pape were responding.

Short, Davis and Pape caught up with Holzer and Covey on Pipe Creek Road at about the two-mile marker, Short states in his affidavit.

“I observed Sgt. Holzer drive around [Covey] and noticed that [Covey] entered into his lane of travel in an attempt to hit Holzer's vehicle with his,” Short wrote. “After Holzer got around the vehicle, [Covey's] vehicle began to speed up to the point he was traveling over 100 MPH in the posted 55 MPH zone.”

Covey then began driving in the opposite lane with oncoming traffic, forcing several vehicles off the road, Griffeth said.

At that point, concerned for public safety, Holzer “attempted to PIT the vehicle,” Short wrote.

A PIT (Pursuit Intervention Technique) maneuver is an attempt to use a vehicle to stop another vehicle by forcing its driver to abruptly turn sideways, lose control and stop.

The resulting collision damaged and disabled Holzer's SUV — he safely pulled off onto the roadside — but though it damaged Covey's car it didn't stop him. Short wrote that Covey “continued to drive at a high rate of speed and failed to stop.”

Davis then executed a successful PIT maneuver, Short wrote. Covey's car spun around in the process before coming to a stop alongside Davis' SUV on the roadside. Pape then pulled his car directly in front of Covey's to prevent him from moving, slightly damaging both cars' front bumpers as he did so.

Short arrested Covey, noting the “strong odor” of alcohol on his breath and his bloodshot eyes, and took him first to Cabinet Peaks Medical Center to be medically cleared and later to Lincoln County Jail.

Holzer, who stayed on the scene to help investigate, was later treated for a minor injury and released from the hospital. His SUV was disabled as a result of the collision, Griffeth said.

Davis, Pape and Covey were uninjured. Davis and Pape's vehicles sustained minor damage and remained in service, according to Griffeth and Libby Police Chief Scott Kessel.

Though the Sheriff's Office is still investigating the incident, Griffeth said it doesn't appear that Holzer and Davis' decisions to use their vehicles to stop Covey were inappropriate.

“The officers handled it very well and quickly acted to eliminate the risk to the public,” Kessel said Thursday.

Short noted in his affidavit that Covey was scheduled to appear in court Tuesday regarding a prior DUI charge.

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