Discovery Middle School in Vancouver went on lockdown when state troopers stopped a driver in the school’s parking lot, after he had sped away when spotted not wearing a seat belt earlier Tuesday afternoon, according to the Washington State Patrol.
WSP Trooper Will Finn said troopers were just starting a traffic safety emphasis operation near the intersection of Northeast 15th Avenue and the state Highway 500 ramp when, around 12:30 p.m., a trooper saw a driver in a white pickup without a visible seat belt.
Finn said the driver saw the trooper, put the belt on and, when the trooper motioned to the driver to pull over, sped away.
The trooper ran to his vehicle to give chase. Finn said the trooper never got close enough to start a pursuit but saw the driver pull some unsafe maneuvers, including veering into the oncoming lane.
The truck turned onto H Street in the Shumway neighborhood and got away, Finn said. Troopers stuck around and searched the area for the pickup.
A trooper asked some construction workers near Discovery Middle School if they’d seen the truck. Finn said they pointed troopers toward the school.
The troopers caught up with the driver in the front parking lot and made a felony traffic stop.
The school was contacted and put on lockdown.
“It was a way to keep everyone safe while we took care of business,” Finn said, noting that felony stops mean troopers have their guns readied.
The driver was arrested on suspicion of felony eluding, reckless driving and failing to pull over.
Finn said the State Patrol will also recommend charges of first-degree negligent driving because of the dangerous driving. Also, Finn said, troopers found alcohol in the pickup and learned the driver had been drinking, although he did not appear impaired.
The school was on lockdown for about 20 minutes.
School is not yet back in session, but school employees were working, Vancouver Public Schools spokeswoman Pat Nuzzo said.
The episode disrupted the planned safety emphasis operation, which was aimed at distracted drivers and seat belt violators, among others, Finn said.
“They were only able to make two traffic stops due to this incident.”