A man driving a stolen ambulance Friday night led police on a wild, slow-moving car chase that lasted more than an hour and covered at least 24 miles as it wound through Northeast Philly.
The escapade started around 9:20 p.m., according to 6ABC, after medics responded to a domestic disturbance call at the Roosevelt Inn. The motel at 7600 Roosevelt Blvd. has been linked to sex trafficking on more than one occasion.
When EMTs arrived on scene there, they found a man wearing nothing but boxer shorts and acting “combative,” said PPD spokesperson Sekou Kinebrew during a post-chase press conference.
As soon as cops started showing up at the Rhawnhurst motel to help with the situation, the shirtless man broke into an ambulance, and — despite getting shot three times as police tried to stop him — drove away, slamming into an officer as he left.
The driver, who has not yet been identified, continued on with various starts, stops, twists and turns taking him as far south as Bridesburg. He created loops around Mayfair, Wissinoming and Oxford Circle as he went, according to a map of the route created by longtime Philly journalist Jim MacMillan. (See below.)
At one point a vigilante tow truck tried to help out. Lights flashing and equipment down, it nearly cornered the rogue ambulance several times, but ended up unsuccessful. Several patrol cars and civilian cars were scraped up as the ambulance busted its way through apparent dead ends, according to helicopter video from multiple news orgs.
The suspect was finally captured around 10:40 p.m. on the 2700 block of Tolbut Street, just a mile northeast from where he started.
Though it was throwing off sparks after it blew out two front tires, the ambulance reportedly never went faster than around 25 mph. Still, it was lucky more people weren’t hurt, police spokesperson Kinebrew said.
One officer was hit when the ambulance was first stolen, but did not have life-threatening injuries. Police also don’t think any bystanders were hurt.
That there weren’t more injuries and damage seems even luckier when you realize how many neighborhoods and communities the chase went through.
MacMillan, who founded and runs the Institute for Better Gun Violence Reporting, said he listened to dispatches called out by PPD helicopter Tac Air and created his map based on the intersections they called out.
“Seems like things could have gone much worse and everybody did a great job at minimizing possible harm,” MacMillan said.
“I think I heard some brief dispatcher confusion at another point,” he told Billy Penn, “and you can’t really see how many times they went over the same section of the Boulevard.” While the map may not be entirely accurate, he said, “it’s still pretty close.”
The full circuit required four different layers to outline, MacMillan noted, because Google Maps only allows a certain number of waypoints on each route.
Check out MacMillan’s outline of the wild ambulance police chase route below.