A suspect is now in custody after a rampage through two states that began with the theft of a truck in St. Helens, where the vehicle’s owner was dragged through Ace Hardware’s parking lot.
By the time it was over, 35-year-old Gregorio Ivan Lanya, of Kelso, would allegedly attempt to steal two more vehicles and lead the Cowlitz County Sheriff’s Office (CCSO) on a high-speed chase down I-5 before finally being pinned in by patrol vehicles and taken down by CCSO K-9s in Clatskanie.
Around 10:50 a.m. on Sunday, June 30, the St. Helens Police Department (SHPD) was notified of the stolen 2013 Ford F-150 from the Ace Hardware parking lot, located at 155. S. Columbia River Highway.
The vehicle’s owner, Dave Kling, said he’d stopped by the store to pick up some potting soil for his wife. He’d left the windows of the truck down due to the heat and had thrown his keys in the floorboard of the truck while he loaded the soil. Kling said he was standing about ten feet away from the vehicle when he noticed it backing out.
“It took me a minute to realize what was happening. Dude, stop, stop, stop, this is my car, call the police, he’s trying to steal my car,” Kling said.
Kling said he jumped onto the vehicle, clinging to the open driver’s side window in an attempt to stop the suspect from taking off with it. Kling said Lanya hit the brakes to try to throw him off, and ultimately resorted to turning circles in the parking lot trying to buck Kling.
“I don’t know why I jumped on there, but something clicked in me and I had to do something. He hit the brakes trying to throw me off which threw my body forward. I think I took out my side mirror with my back,” Kling said. “I rebounded back, and he did some more cookies and then I grabbed the steering wheel to try to keep it straight to see if I could get him to run into the back of the building. That really pissed him off.”
Kling said Lanya began driving faster and more erratically, and just as Kling decided it was time to bail to protect himself, Lanya allegedly punched him in the side of the head and threw Kling off the truck.
From there, Lanya reportedly fled southbound. The SHPD posted a press release on their Facebook page to seek more information and began an area search along with the Scappoose Police Department and the Columbia County Sheriff’s Office.
“While we’re doing an area search, someone reported someone trying to steal a car in Scappoose, believed to be the same suspect,” SHPD Sgt. Jose Casteillja said.
Andrew Gundlach, of Scappoose, had noticed a man matching Lanya’s description in his driveway when he’d gone out into the garage to get some ice. Gundlach asked the man what was going on, but the suspect merely smiled, waved and walked away. Gundlach thought his presence and calmness was so strange, that he paid attention to the vehicle the man drove away – a silver truck – and memorized the plates.
“That’s when I opened my car and I found two little packages for screwdrivers. I’d just been in my car 30 minutes earlier and knew they weren’t there before,” Gundlach said. “Right away, I knew the dude was in my car.”
Gundlach reported the suspect to the non-emergency line, and when he went to move his truck, he found that his ignition was broken. The officer would later tell him the silver truck was the same one reported stolen in St. Helens. Scappoose Officer Troy Gainer confirmed it was Lanya that attempted to steal Gundlach’s vehicle.
“It wasn’t the same type of situation, but he did try to steal it,” Scappoose Officer Troy Gainer said. “Did I charge that same person? Yes. I’m typing up the report as we speak. Along with his other laundry list of charges, he’ll be charged with breaking into Mr. Gundlach’s vehicle and causing damage.”
Gundlach said his car now won’t start, and he’s invested in some security equipment to monitor his home.
“Now, in hindsight, he seemed like a career criminal,” Gundlach said. “Just his calmness in that situation. He was just super nonchalant, kind of waving, never picked up his pace …”
The next reported run-in with Lanya came later that afternoon when the Ridgefield Police responded to another reported car theft, and this time the vehicle he attempted to steal was occupied. The reporting party told police Lanya put him in a headlock and stole his keys, but was unable to start the vehicle.
“This guy was sitting in his vehicle eating dinner,” CCSO Operation Chief Troy Brightbill said. “Using force while committing a carjacking – that’s a very unique violent felony against a person. This one, putting the owner in a headlock and taking his keys … this is just someone that’s going to continue that behavior until he’s caught.”
Officers attempted to arrest Lanya, but he escaped after a foot pursuit and fled in the silver Ford F150 stolen from Ace Hardware’s parking lot.
CCSO Deputy Brady Spaulding later spotted the truck traveling northbound on I-5 near Exit 27 and attempted to stop him. Lanya reportedly fled at speeds in excess of 100 mph and used all three lanes to evade police, CCSO officials said, adding he was able to avoid spike strips and intentionally swerved at a deputy who was standing outside of his vehicle attempting to deploy the strips.
“He actually swerved at the deputy and he had to jump out of the freeway,” Brightbill said. “He was standing on the shoulder and had to run for cover.”
Lanya then reportedly took Exit 39 and collided with another vehicle that was stopped for a red light, causing reportable damage. According to the CCSO, the occupant of that vehicle was not injured. The suspect continued to evade deputies and took the Lewis and Clark Bridge back into Oregon before continuing westbound on Highway 30, driving at high speeds and forcing eastbound vehicles out of their lane.
Brightbill said the CCSO deputies attempted to set up a pit maneuver to disable the fleeing vehicle several times. Lanya reportedly continued on into Clatskanie, where he collided with a CCSO patrol vehicle and was then pinned in by multiple patrol vehicles to end the pursuit.
As deputies approached the vehicle, ordering Lanya to surrender, he attempted to break out the rear window of the vehicle to escape. Brightbill said a CCSO deputy ended up breaking out the glass of the driver’s side back door window to remove him, cutting himself on broken glass that would later require sutures.
“It was a very chaotic scene. He’s resisting, trying to fight through the deputies to escape, so they did deploy the taser and the K-9 to get him in handcuffs,” Brightbill said.
Lanya was transported to a local hospital for minor injuries and then taken into custody by the Oregon State Police on charges related to the pursuit in Oregon and lodged in the Columbia County Jail. Those charges include: third degree robbery, unauthorized use of a motor vehicle, two counts of unlawful entry into a motor vehicle, fourth degree assault, three counts of recklessly endangering, reckless driving, resisting arrest, possession of a stolen vehicle, attempt to commit crime, attempting to elude police officers in a vehicle, and failure to carry/present a license.
The CCSO will be filing additional charges for attempting to elude law enforcement, possession of a stolen vehicle, second degree assault, a hit and run, and for resisting arrest. Ridgefield Police also has probable cause for additional charges surrounding the attempted carjacking incident.
“We’ll issue a warrant here on our end,” Brightbill said.
SHPD Sgt. Casteillja wanted to remind our readers of a few safety tips to prevent future car thefts from happening as it did to Kling.
*Before leaving your vehicle unattended, always lock all the doors, take your valuables, and roll up all the windows - even during the upcoming summer heat.
*A vehicle should not be left running unattended in Oregon.
*Never attempt to stand in front of, or jump onto, a moving vehicle. A vehicle is not worth risking your life.
According to ORS 811.585, failing to secure an unattended motor vehicle is actually illegal and subject to a penalty. If you are going to leave the vehicle unattended, make sure you stop the engine, turn the front wheels to the curb when standing on an incline, lock the ignition, remove the key from the ignition, and effectively set the brake.
“Secure your car, even if you’re just going in the store for a second,” Casteillja said. “This theft happened in less than a minute. Lock up your car and take your valuables with you. And, you know, don’t jump on a moving car.”
Kling admitted he’d left the windows on his truck down due to the heat and his keys in the vehicle. He’s a little banged up and has a swollen ankle from the altercation, which he plans to keep elevated during his next two weeks off of work due to the incident.
“I’m thinking of the worst and how stupid I was, but I thought it was probably good to try to do that to try to save people from getting run over,” Kling said. “Everything just happened so fast. I got sent an article this morning that said, ‘owner clinging to hood.’ Well … that is my name.”