DRIVER in custody after leading police on lengthy chase in blazing lumber truck

Thursday, November 8th 2001, 12:00 am
By: News On 6

DALLAS (AP) _ Officers were told to use deadly force against the driver of a flaming lumber truck who led police on a chase for more than 90 minutes, careening across highways and through neighborhood streets.

At least one officer fired a shot that struck the 40-year-old man as police pursued the stolen tractor-trailer through southern Dallas. Police said the man surrendered after he was wounded Wednesday afternoon.

The driver, who was not identified because formal charges had not been filed, was treated at a hospital and released into police custody.

The truck apparently caught fire after officers shot out some of its tires, police said. Sparks from the metal wheels grinding on the pavement probably ignited the lumber on the truck, sending bellows of black smoke into the air and fiery tires rolling into traffic.

Before officers fired at the man, they lobbed tear gas into the cab. But the man rolled down the cab's windows and continued to drive, said Dallas Senior Cpl. Chris Gilliam.

``It had the potential to be a very tragic situation,'' Gilliam said. ``The suspect jeopardized many lives.''

Because of the danger to motorists, police officials authorized tactical unit officers to shoot to kill to stop the man, Gilliam said.

Police arrested the driver after he was wounded and stopped near a bridge where traffic was restricted by construction.

A child on a school bus suffered minor injuries after a loose board struck the bus, but the child did not require medical treatment, police said. No other injuries were reported during the chase.

The incident began shortly after police responded to an aggravated robbery call in south Dallas, police spokeswoman Diana Watts said. The truck, owned by DeFord's Hardware and Lumber in Duncanville, was parked near a fast food restaurant when the man broke into the cab, police said.

Crowds gathered to see the spectacle. Some said they saw the driver wave and honk his horn as he passed.

The chase was covered live nationally for nearly 40 minutes on CNN and Fox News Channel.

The Federal Aviation Administration is investigating whether television stations in the Dallas area violated restrictions on news helicopters, which have been banned from operating within a 22-mile radius from the nation's largest airports as a result of the Sept. 11 attacks.

Pilots violating the rules risk losing their licenses.