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More details emerge in Lincoln County police chase

by SCOTT SHINDLEDECKER
The Western News | January 30, 2024 7:00 AM

The charging document against a Troy man accused of leading law officers from two states and three counties on a wild and bizarre chase earlier this month revealed more details of the harrowing incident.

Caleb David Covey, 37 is facing multiple felony charges following the hours and miles-long chase throughout south Lincoln County and into Boundary County, Idaho on Jan. 13.

According to the Montana Department of Corrections, Covey is being held in a confidential location. He was first taken to Kootenai Health in Coeur d’Alene, Idaho with several self-inflicted wounds after the chase ended on Highway 200.

According to a statement by Lincoln County Sheriff’s Captain John Davis in the probable cause affidavit, Covey said he cut this throat in attempt to avoid going to jail.

“How did that not work? This is stupid, how did this not work,” Covey allegedly said to Davis during his arrest. “This was my mission and it didn’t work, I should have been dead.”

Law officers weren’t the only ones trying to stop Covey’s alleged rampage. A number of citizens also attempted to assist in derailing Covey’s pickup as it dragged another man’s truck through Libby. 

One of the men later went to Cabinet Peaks Medical Center for injuries he sustained during the incident.

According to the charging document, it seems the incident may have been the result of mistaken identity.

Libby Police Officer Caleb Thomas spoke to the owner of a truck that Covey allegedly stole and drug around Libby. The man said he didn’t know Covey, but a neighbor allegedly told him that Covey’s girlfriend used to live in the man’s home.

The chase began at about 3:39 p.m. Saturday, Jan. 13. According to a narrative by Libby Police Officer Don Luthey, he was dispatched to a possible hit-and-run collision at a residence on Main Avenue. Luthey received information from Lincoln County Dispatch that a Ford F350 pickup was towing a camouflage colored Toyota pickup. The towed truck had struck a fence on Main Avenue, then a parked vehicle and a power pole on California Avenue. After hitting the pole, the tow line came loose, but an eyewitness said the man driving the Ford reattached the strap to the Toyota and drove away.

Covey then turned left on to U.S. 2, still dragging the Toyota on its passenger side, according to Luthey. He tried to stop the truck, but Covey kept going as sparks flew from the towed Toyota as it skidded down the road. He then made two left turns, running stop signs at both intersections as the defendant returned to U.S. 2. Covey stopped at the traffic signal at the intersection of MIneral Avenue, turned right, then left on to 8th Street. 

A snow plow truck tried to block Covey’s pickup, but the Toyota struck it, the tow strap broke and the Toyota came to rest against the plow truck. The driver of the truck was taken to the hospital for treatment of injuries he suffered. The driver told Libby Police Officer Caleb Thomas he put his plow down in an attempt to stop Covey’s truck. 

The man initially refused medical treatment at the scene before later going to the hospital.

Meanwhile the chase continued out of Libby as Covey turned on to Pipe Creek Road, then on to Sheldon Flats Road, then on to Robb Road. Luthey reported that Covey made a u-turn in a yard and returned the way he had driven as he and county Deputy Smith pursued him. Luthey’s patrol vehicle slid off the icy Sheldon Flats Road and into embankment. An air bag deployed and the vehicle was disabled, but Luthey was unhurt. Luthey later reported that a damage estimate to one of the trucks was nearly $8,000.

Luthey reported that he heard on dispatch that Covey’s truck drove through the forest before it made it back on to Pipe Creek Road. 

Capt. Davis reported he made it to Pipe Creek Road and tried to block Covey’s escape attempt, but the suspect drove into a ditch and got around the officer’s vehicle. Covey drove north at speeds up to 80 miles per hour. After Covey passed the Red Dog Restaurant, Davis reported he stopped the pursuit due to the potential harm to the public.

County deputies Derek Breiland and Smith drove up Pipe Creek Road, but they never saw him and later heard the chase had begun again in Libby. Breiland believed Covey had used a side road to escape detection.

The truck made it back into city limits and headed east as county officer Luke Hauke, who was off duty and at home, joined the pursuit. Covey made a series of turns before encountering a blue Ford pickup, which parked diagonally in an attempt to stop the defendant.

But Covey struck the blue truck while getting around it and made it out of town on Jennings Haul Road, according to Hauke’s report. Hauke used a private driveway to get ahead of Covey and he attempted to disable the suspect’s vehicle, but Covey evaded the officer’s effort.

Davis, who had returned to Libby to help in the investigation, learned at about 5:28 p.m. from dispatch that Covey had returned to Libby. After driving east on some side streets, Covey made it on to U.S. 2 and headed west, not stopping at the traffic light at the intersection of the highway and Indian Head Road. Davis reported Covey drove at speeds between 70 and 74 mph on the icy road. Davis radioed a Troy police officer in an attempt to deploy spike strips, but the officer didn’t have them. 

The chase continued on Highway 56 and Davis contacted a Sanders County officer who later successfully deployed spike strips. The right front tire began to smoke and became deflated. Covey turned right on Highway 200 as sparks flew from his tire rims. Davis reported Covey sped through a construction zone while works crews repaired a downed power line.

The chase ended when Covey slowed while driving on the winding road with high cliffs to the right and a cement jersey barrier on the left. Davis drove alongside Covey’s vehicle, pushed it sideway where it spun and stopped. He drew his gun and yelled to Covey to get out of the truck. Davis checked the vehicle doors because he couldn't see inside the truck's tinted windows. The rear side door on the driver's side was not locked and Davis yelled to Covey to get out. 

Davis saw what he described as, “a huge, open wound on his neck and a massive amount of blood on Covey.” He handcuffed the suspect before bandaging his throat.

Davis loaded Covey into his patrol vehicle, drove to Clark Fork High School where the man was given medical aid and loaded in a helicopter for transport to the hospital.

The charges against Covey include seven counts of felony criminal mischief, six counts of felony criminal endangerment and one count of felony theft.

Covey's past includes two run-ins with law officers dating back to 2015. He was arrested on April 23, 2015, following a domestic disturbance at his home. A plea deal where two counts of assaulting a peace officer were dropped in exchange for a guilty plea to two counts of misdemeanor resisting arrest saw him get a suspended sentence in 2016.

Covey received a 10-year sentence, with five suspended, in 2019 following a drunken police chase in September 2018. At some point, Covey was paroled. He remained under the supervision of the state Probation and Parole office in Libby.

A conviction on any of the charges may result in a maximum sentence of 10 years in the Montana State Prison.