Police arrest Grants Pass suspect after auto chase

Matthew McNeal left stolen car and jumped into river before being captured, police allege

GOLD HILL — A Grants Pass man was arrested Wednesday after a police chase and a brief swim in the frigid Rogue River, Jackson County sheriff's officials said.

Matthew McNeal, 30, is lodged in the Jackson County Jail on felony charges including attempting to elude police in a vehicle and on foot, unlawful use of a motor vehicle, reckless driving and disorderly conduct.

He also faces numerous traffic violations after leading Jackson County sheriff's deputies on a chase through Gold Hill, officials said.

A sheriff's deputy was parked near the intersection of Fourth Avenue and Dardanelles Street in Gold Hill at 3 p.m. when he saw McNeal drive by in a stolen 2005 Chevy Malibu, Jackson County sheriff's spokeswoman Andrea Carlson said.

The deputy drove up Dardanelles looking for the Malibu and soon spotted it driving up a nearby hill.

When the deputy tried to pull the car over, it sped away, officials said.

The Malibu turned down Second Avenue and then pulled into Gold Hill Estates, a trailer park. McNeal fled the Malibu and ran through the front door of a trailer, a sheriff's release said

The trailer belonged to someone he knew, officials said.

McNeal allegedly ran through the trailer and escaped out the back door.

The suspect then continued toward the Rogue River, where he jumped in the current and tried to swim away.

However, he found out that the Rogue River is a frigid place to make an escape in February.

He was only in the water a brief time before heading back to shore, Carlson said.

"He was very cold," Carlson said. "He had some breathing problems when he left the river."

McNeal's health was checked out and he was determined fit for jail after warming up.

He was soon driven to Medford and lodged in jail.

He was completing the booking process late Wednesday evening.

The Malibu was stolen from Grants Pass last Friday. It has been returned to the owner.

Reach reporter Chris Conrad at 541-776-4471 or email cconrad@mailtribune.com.

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