An Aloha man was arrested in Clackamas County Sunday after what deputies characterized as a slow-speed joy ride on a stolen backhoe that spanned nearly 30 miles across Portland-area highways.
The suspect, Mitchell Ray Johnson, 39, is also accused of driving on the wrong side of the road and fleeing an attempted traffic stop in the wee hours of Sunday morning on the construction equipment — which tops out at around 20 mph.
Just after midnight Sunday morning, a trooper spotted a backhoe driving near I-205 and Highway 213 in Clackamas County. The trooper attempted a traffic stop, but the driver went the wrong way up the on-ramp from Highway 213. By the time the trooper looped back around, the backhoe was gone, deputies said.
Clackamas County deputies initiated a search for the backhoe, and around 12:40 a.m., a resident reported seeing it near South Holly Lane and Redland Road. A deputy next spotted it just after 1 a.m. driving on South Fischers Mill Road, straddling the double-yellow line and driving on the wrong side of the road.
The backhoe was traveling at estimated speeds of 10 to 20 miles per hour, deputies said.
When deputies stopped the backhoe, the driver initially told officers he was “lost” before admitting he’d stolen it from a lot at Southwest 141st and Tualatin Valley Highway in Beaverton, according to a release from the sheriff’s office.
The man then drove it nearly 30 miles, from TV Highway to Highway 217, onto I-5 and then onto I-205 where he had been spotted by the trooper.
Deputies arrested Johnston, who’d had his license revoked from a previous felony, deputies said. Johnston is facing multiple charges including unauthorized use of a vehicle and driving while suspended. His bail was set at $50,000.
The owners of the backhoe came to pick up their stolen equipment at the scene.
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