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Arrests follow pair of morning police chases

At least two suspects have been captured following a pair of unrelated police chases throughout rural portions of Jackson County near Medford.

John Allen Firehammer, 45, of Grants Pass and Tanner Charles McNew, 27, described by police as a Medford area transient, are each in the Jackson County Jail facing felony theft and elude charges following separate chases, according to a release issued by the sheriff’s office.

At 3:53 a.m., Firehammer allegedly attempted to elude police near the intersection of Griffin Creek and West Griffin Creek roads after a sheriff’s deputy found him sleeping in a gray Dodge Durango that was partially in the roadway.

Police say Firehammer refused to exit the vehicle and fled, crashing through multiple security gates and rural properties before sheriff’s deputies stopped the SUV with spike strips and a pursuit intervention technique — also known as a PIT maneuver.

Another subject may have been let off during the pursuit, police say.

Firehammer allegedly ditched the vehicle at a private driveway and fled on foot, sparking a 90-minute manhunt involving hundreds of feet of blackberry bushes and help from a Jackson County Sheriff’s Office K9 team, Oregon State Police troopers and Medford, Talent and Phoenix police.

As of Wednesday evening, Firehammer remains held in the Jackson County Jail without bail on felony charges of attempting to elude police in a vehicle, first-degree criminal mischief, identity theft, driving while suspended or revoked, first-degree possessing a forged instrument, misdemeanor charges of attempting to elude police on foot, interfering with police, providing false information to police hit-and-run property damage and reckless driving, for violating his parole on a prior third-degree assault conviction and on a fugitive warrant out of the state of Wisconsin.

At 9:40 a.m., a deputy witnessed McNew backing out of a driveway in a hurry driving a Toyota Tacoma pickup, causing a confrontation with nearby pedestrians and nearly causing a crash with the deputy.

Bystanders nearly hit by the Toyota described themselves as employees at a hemp farm who allegedly caught McNew stealing trimmed hemp plants and were trying to stop him before he fled.

McNew sped westbound on Gibbon Road in the truck, sparking a pursuit aided by Oregon State Police, before the truck struck a tree near the end of the road that rolled on its side.

After McNew was medically cleared at Rogue Regional Medical Center, sheriff’s deputies arrested him on a felony charge of attempting to elude police in a vehicle and misdemeanor charges of reckless driving, recklessly endangering another person, second-degree theft, second-degree trespassing, unlawfully possessing marijuana and unlawfully possessing methamphetamine.

As of Wednesday evening, McNew remains held in the Jackson County Jail on $40,000 bail.

Police believe both pursuits could involve stolen hemp from local farms, according to the release, but no details related to hemp have yet been released in Firehammer’s case.

Jackson County sheriff’s Sgt. Julie Denney said Firehammer’s case is still under investigation.

Anyone with information about either case is asked to call the Jackson County Sheriff's Office tip line at 541-770-8333, and reference case 19-22878 for the West Griffin Creek case involving Firehammer and 19-22890 for the Upton Road case involving McNew.

Reach reporter Nick Morgan at 541-776-4471 or nmorgan@rosebudmedia.com. Follow him on Twitter @MTCrimeBeat.

Spike strips and a PIT maneuver were allegedly needed to stop Jon Allen Firehammer driving this Dodge Durango SUV. Jackson County Sheriff's Office photo.
Tanner Charles McNew, 27, allegeldy crashed this Toyota Tacoma pickup while eluding police after being caught stealing at a hemp farm. Jackson County Sheriff's Office photo.