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Medford police arrest suspected carjacker who drove through Stewart Meadows Golf Course

Less than an hour after being released from Jackson County Jail, a man who police described as sweating profusely and possibly on drugs was arrested as the primary suspect in a carjacking and reckless drive through the WinCo Foods parking lot and over the fairways and greens of Stewart Meadows Golf Course, police said. 

Steven Fennell, 29, a transient, was arrested after a short-lived manhunt involving nearly 20 police officers in neighborhoods surrounding Fichtner-Mainwaring Park in south Medford, Medford police Lt. Mike Budreau said.

Fennell was arrested by Medford police Wednesday night at about 11 p.m. on charges of third-degree theft and resisting arrest, Budreau said, then released from jail today at 11:17 a.m.

He is back in jail on charges of second-degree burglary, second-degree robbery, second-degree kidnapping, first-degree criminal mischief and unauthorized use of a motor vehicle, and his bail is set at $2, 015,000, Budreau said

Fennell allegedly pulled a handgun on a 49-year-old woman sitting in the back seat of a maroon Hyundai in the parking lot of US Bank on South Central Avenue in Medford and sped away with her still inside the vehicle at about 11:55 a.m., Budreau said.

While Fennell was allegedly driving through the WinCo parking lot, the woman leapt from the car as it slowed, Budreau said.

The female victim said Fennell menaced her with a gun before stealing the car and threatened her during their drive together, Budreau said. 

The woman, who was waiting for a friend to exit the bank at the time of the carjacking, was not injured in the incident but very shaken up, he said. 

After leaving the WinCo parking lot, the car was seen driving through the Stewart Meadows Golf Course and eventually crashed into a fence in an attempt to leave the course near the intersection of South Holly Street and Holmes Avenue. 

"He was driving pretty crazy for reasons only known to him," said Budreau, adding police never gave chase to the Hyundai, which officers found abandoned and crashed into the fence.

"The entire crime doesn't make a lot of sense," he said. "We're certainly entertaining the idea that he had taken drugs, but that hasn't been confirmed."

Jefferson Elementary School was on lockdown after getting a call at 12:04 p.m. from a Medford school resource officer who said police were in pursuit of a man fleeing on foot in the “general vicinity of the school.”

Police searched both the inside and outside of the school, which was on lockdown from 12:06 to 12:37 p.m.

“Medford police, Principal Rick Snyder and Jefferson staff responded quickly and professionally for the safety of students,” Medford Superintendent Brian Shumate said.

Budreau said a man believed to be Fennell was reported to police by school employees as crouching below the school's windows as he ran alongside the building. 

"We sent officers directly to the school and remained on campus until the situation was resolved," Budreau said. 

Officers spotted Fennell as he stepped out of a row of bushes and began walking down the street near the intersection of Kenyon Street and Holmes Avenue and took him into custody at about 12:34 p.m.

In an attempt to trick pursuing police, Fennell allegedly broke into a home in the 1400 block of South Ivy Street and changed clothes, Budreau said. He also allegedly stole a beer from  the home and fled when the resident arrived.

Fennell was carrying the bottle of beer in his pocket when he was detained, Budreau said. 

Police are still searching for the alleged weapon with the assistance of dogs, Budreau said. 

Sixteen police responded to the call, he said. 

In 2005, as a Medford resident, Fennell was convicted of second-degree burglary and, in April, he was convicted of second-degree theft, Oregon Judicial Department records show.

In the latter case, Fennell was listed with an address in the 200 block of Appaloosa Drive, Grants Pass, records show. 

Josephine County Circuit Court records show Fennell was convicted in July of first-degree trespassing. 

Reach reporter Sam Wheeler at 541-776-4471 or swheeler@mailtribune.com. Follow him at www.twitter.com/swhlr.

A driver in a stolen car crashed into the Stewart Meadows Golf Course during a police chase Thursday afternoon. Mail Tribune / Bob Pennell