ASHLAND — An allegedly intoxicated Saudi Arabian man visiting relatives in the area led police on a car chase around Ashland Sunday night and rammed two patrol cars before he was arrested, police said. Yazeed Mohammeda Abunayyan, 19, drove the wrong way on Siskiyou Boulevard "several times," with at least three police cars in pursuit, Ashland police Sgt. Bob Smith said Monday.
"It was like 'Grand Theft Auto' (the video game)," said Adrian Olesnyckyj, 32, of Ashland, who was walking to Safeway for ice cream when a car allegedly driven by Abunayyan screeched its tires a few hundred yards down Siskiyou Boulevard from its intersection with Harrison Street, where Olesnyckyj was standing.
"Initially, I thought it was someone who skidded out, because it was raining," said Olesnyckyj. "When he did it a third time "… that's when I knew something was up, so I called the cops."
Dispatch told Olesnyckyj that someone had already reported the driver, and police were on the way, he said.
"The cops were just following this guy around in circles," Olesnyckyj said.
"I hid behind a tree when he would go by "… I wasn't going to get run over by him."
Callers told police a man was spinning circles in a car on Siskiyou Boulevard, driving erratically, and trying to run over pedestrians near Triangle Park at about 10:30 p.m., Smith said.
Smith said Ashland Sgt. Art Le Cours located Abunayyan as he drove his California-licensed silver Ford sedan into the Safeway parking lot. There, Abunayyan clipped the front passenger side of Le Cours' patrol car, then attempted to run over a pedestrian in the parking lot, Smith said.
The pedestrian jumped halfway into the driver's side window of the Ford, likely trying to remove the key from the ignition, but Abunayyan escaped and drove away down the wrong side of Siskiyou Boulevard, Smith said.
Smith said that while police were following Abunayyan in the parking lot at Safeway, his dome light was on and officers could see he was smiling.
During the chase, Abunayyan didn't drive more than 40 mph, mostly keeping his speed between 15 and 40 mph, Smith said.
"The speeds were fairly slow for a lot of the incident," Smith said. "I'm just glad that nobody got hurt by this guy."
Smith said Abunayyan rammed a second patrol car, one from the Talent Police Department that had come to assist, at the intersection of Mountain Avenue and Siskiyou Boulevard, after the officer tapped him from behind in an attempt to get Abunayyan's car to spin and stop.
The Talent patrol car was too damaged to drive away after being rammed and had to be towed, Smith said.
Abunayyan hit Le Cours' patrol car for a second time on Oak Street, sideswiping the passenger side as Le Cours attempted to pull him over, Smith said.
After about 20 minutes of eluding police, Abunayyan high-centered his car on a dirt embankment at a dead end on Clear Creek Drive and was arrested, Smith said.
"We were trying to stop him the entire time," said Smith. "Who knows what he was thinking?"
Abunayyan is being held in the Jackson County Jail on charges of driving under the influence of intoxicants, reckless driving, eluding police, two charges of first-degree criminal mischief, three charges of hit and run, six charges of reckless endangerment, and two charges of assault on an officer.
His bail is set at $65,000.
Smith said he wouldn't draw any parallels with the case of the U.S. marshals who shot a Medford man dead on Jan. 5 in an Albertsons parking lot after the man rammed their cars. Smith said he wasn't familiar with the intricacies of that case.
In that instance, James Georgeson, a federal fugitive who previously has assaulted a U.S. marshal, drove directly at marshals while they were out of their cars and they shot him, the marshals testified to a grand jury. The jury found the shooting justified on Feb. 9.
Sam Wheeler is a reporter for the Ashland Daily Tidings. Reach him at 541-499-1470 or by email at email@example.com.