Man, girlfriend face multiple charges after wild chase on I-84

Stranger on a train helps trooper subdue suspect
by: contributed photo, James Thomas Ruiz

A wild, 35-mile police chase that began near Wood Village on Wednesday, March 28, ended with a stranger on a train helping corral a wanted California man.

James Thomas Ruiz, 39, faces felony counts of attempted first-degree assault, assaulting a public safety officer, methamphetamine possession and eluding, along with misdemeanor counts of resisting arrest, third-degree assault, reckless endangerment, eluding on foot, reckless driving, hit and run and driving under the influence of intoxicants.

His girlfriend, Pracilla Diana Velasquez, 19, is charged with assaulting a public safety officer, a felony, and misdemeanor counts of criminal mischief, fourth-degree assault and resisting arrest.

The chase began around noon, when a Multnomah County Sheriff's deputy saw Ruiz allegedly driving 100 mph, 40 over the limit, while eastbound on Interstate 84. The deputy caught up to the vehicle, which then sped up and began passing vehicles on the interstate's left shoulder, a sheriff's office press release stated.

Two Troutdale police officers and another Multnomah County deputy joined the pursuit, which soon hit speeds of 110 mph.

Ruiz allegedly 'taunted the pursuing units by flipping them off through the sun roof,' the release stated. Authorities in Hood River County were alerted as the chase headed that way. Deputies laid down a spike strip to disable the vehicle.

Barreling toward the spikes, Ruiz allegedly veered off the road's right side, 'heading straight for the (Hood River County) deputy.' The deputy dove out of the way, and the vehicle barely missed him. The vehicle eventually ran over the spikes and crashed into the center barrier and another vehicle; the impact blew both rear tires on Ruiz' car off their axles, the press release says.

Ruiz and Velasquez both ran away, and the latter was quickly apprehended. Ruiz, pursued by police K-9 units, escaped into nearby woods. A Hood River County deputy spotted the suspect several hours later walking along railroad tracks in the area and detained him at gunpoint, according to an Oregon State Police press release.

A state trooper arrived to assist, but Ruiz allegedly fled into a gully. The trooper followed the suspect and tried to convince him to surrender. He eventually pepper-sprayed Ruiz, who sat down but refused to surrender.

The suspect then allegedly wrestled with the trooper and tried to grab his gun from its holster. Before other deputies arrived, the trooper got the upper hand and was holding the suspect on the ground 'when a passing train stopped and an unidentified person got off,' the release says. 'With this person's help, (the trooper) was able to handcuff Ruiz as other officers arrived.'

The trooper and the suspect were taken to a hospital and treated and released for minor injuries.

Meanwhile, Velasquez, who was in temporary custody on a misdemeanor count of interfering with a police officer, told jailers she was sore from the crash and requested medical attention. As she was being driven to Legacy Mount Hood Medical Center in Gresham, Velasquez repeatedly asked if there were warrants out for her arrest. The deputy said no, but Velasquez allegedly kicked out a window of the police car and tried to jump out at Northeast 238th Avenue and Halsey Street.

The deputy pulled over and tried to control the suspect, who allegedly punched him repeatedly, grabbed his groin area and tried to bite him.

'Velasquez was then taken back into custody on the new charges,' the release says, including felony assault of a police officer.

She was being held at the Multnomah County Detention Center. Ruiz, who is wanted in California on a car-jacking charge, was being held in the Northern Oregon Regional Correctional Facility in The Dalles.