Driver escapes injury after alleged bank robber hits van

Air bag does its job as man gets sucked into high-speed chase

By Andrea Damewood and Ray Legendre

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SALMON CREEK — Miles from where Brent Woodall's alleged death-defying race from authorities ended Wednesday afternoon, Scott Lewis screamed for joy when he learned from a Clark County deputy of the bank robbery suspect's arrest.

"They caught him!" the 49-year-old Salmon Creek man exclaimed as he stood on Northeast 144th Street, a few feet from his once unblemished 2004 Toyota Sienna minivan.

Woodall allegedly struck the driver's side of Lewis' vehicle Wednesday afternoon, while attempting to elude authorities near the Avalon Meadows subdivision in Salmon Creek. Woodall continued driving his Toyota Sequoia westbound along Northeast 144th Street following the collision.

He was later captured in Portland.

Lewis escaped serious injury, thanks largely to his van's side airbag, he said. There were no passengers in his vehicle.

His minivan, however, suffered extensive damage to its driver's side, with the driver's door jarred against the seat. The airbag that spared Lewis serious injury remained visible, as the van sat prostrate.

"I am so lucky," Lewis said. "Holy buckets!"

Lewis had just exited a nearby grocery store, and was two miles from his home, when he came upon a stop sign, with a vehicle in front of him and police cars across Northeast 29th Avenue.

Before Lewis could advance, he saw smoke rising from the tires of an onrushing SUV turning right.

Lewis turned his head to the side, anticipating the impact. The SUV missed the vehicle in front of Lewis and sideswiped his van.

"Right at me," Lewis recalled, repeating the phrase, as if struggling to believe the incident had actually occurred.

Across the two-lane road, Gary McMahill watched the incident unfold.

The 74-year-old heard "sirens everywhere" and walked from his house to the corner of Northeast 144th Street.

He estimated there were eight to 10 police units in the area when Woodall allegedly hooked a right turn at a high rate of speed.

The tire marks were still visible on Northeast 29th Avenue.

"I thought, at first, it was just a traffic (stop)," McMahill recalled. "When that guy came around the corner and hit that other guy, I knew it was something else."

'Scary' for Portland kids

For Pelipe Trejo and his four sons, a wrong turn brought them into the path of the would-be hijacker in Portland.

They were headed to play basketball at a nearby court. Instead, Trejo said he missed his turn and wound up taking a different route -- the same as the one Woodall was on. As Woodall rounded the corner onto Kellogg Street, his path was blocked by a Toyota Prius. The suspect then left his Ford Focus and ran toward the Prius, which quickly began backing away.

That's when Woodall focused on Trejo's minivan. Trejo said when he came upon the scene, he thought it was a domestic dispute. He was about to get out to help the driver of the Prius, but the man began running toward his driver's side door. Trejo said he saw a weapon, possibly a Taser, in the man's hand. He was about to begin driving away when the police pinned Woodall between a cruiser and his van, bringing the chase to an end.

At the crime scene, a Taser-like object and a plastic bag with $1 and $5 bills were visible.

As Portland officers wrapped up the crime scene, one of Trejo's sons retrieved a basketball and the family headed to the court to play anyway, although he said they were shaken up.

"It wasn't scary for me, but it was scary for the kids," Trejo said.

Ray Legendre: 360-735-4517; www.facebook.com/raylegend;www.twitter.com/#!/col_smallcities;ray.legendre@columbian.com