September 5, 2012 | LXXII, No. 23

Police, sheriff, farmer team up for manhunt

A Wenatchee man who walked away from an Okanogan County Jail work release program was spotted by local police in the Lakeview Terrace Mobile Home Park area and chased into the tall sagebrush by Grand Coulee officers before he got away, temporarily, last Thursday.

The fugitive, Nathaniel David Smallbeck, 18, was later apprehended by Okanogan County Sheriff officers on farmland at the top of the hill off the highway to Wilbur.

Grand Coulee Police Sgt. John Tufts picked up the pursuit last Thursday about 9:30 a.m. and was later joined by Police Chief Mel Hunt.

Tufts yelled at Smallbeck to stop, but the suspect vaulted over the guardrail and then over a barbed wire fence and into six-foot tall sagebrush. Tufts followed him but couldn’t pick up his trail, and Hunt, who was trying to watch the pair through field glasses and was in contact with Tufts by phone, couldn’t follow the suspect because the sagebrush was too tall and thick.

Okanogan County Sheriff Frank T. Rogers, Undersheriff Joe Somday and Chief Criminal Deputy Dave Rodriguez arrived at the scene, where Somday and Rodriguez decided to hike up the ridges that led to the wheat fields to see if they could turn up any sign of Smallbeck. Rogers was scanning the area with field glasses.

At about 4:15 p.m., a farmer, Jared Eagle, spotted Smallbeck heading by foot toward Wilbur and informed the Okanogan law enforcement team. Somday spotted the suspect about 1,000 yards away and Eagle drove officers through the wheat field with his 4x4 vehicle “at a pretty good clip,” Rogers said.

The officers raced to Smallbeck’s location and the escapee dropped to the ground. Somday said later that Smallbeck was so shocked he had the “deer in the headlights look” when they got to him.

He was returned to Okanogan, where he was re-booked into jail.

Smallbeck stated that for the past two days he had been hiking on roads and going across country, trying to get to Spokane. He said he didn’t think anyone would chase him up the hills out of the coulee area.

Smallbeck and several other prisoners had been on a work release project at the Okanogan County Fairgrounds when he decided to leave the group.

Sheriff Rogers credited Eagle with his alertness and help in capturing Smallbeck.

“All the credit goes to Mr. Jared Eagle,” Rogers said. “He spotted Smallbeck, notified us and actually assisted us in the arrest, … we are extremely grateful for his assistance and his willingness to help.”

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