HOUSTON – Two bank robbery suspects in a minivan led police on an hour-long chase that started and ended in southeast Houston.
The suspects finally pulled over on Scott Street after driving several miles on at least one flat tire. The driver jumped from the car and tried to run away on foot. He changed his mind when he saw police officers with their guns pointed at him.
Police say the passenger robbed the Trustmark Bank on the Katy Freeway near Gessner around 12:30 p.m. He had a semi-automatic handgun.
His getaway vehicle was easy for officers to track down thanks to witnesses who spotted a stick figure family on the back of the gray minivan.
The chase started on the South Loop in southeast Houston and followed the Loop around to the north side.
The driver sped past other vehicles on the South, East and North Loops with several HPD patrol cars following behind.
"It actually was not a very high-speed chase, maybe 65 mph. They got up to about 75 at one point, not reckless, stayed pretty much in one lane," said HPD Lt. Randall Upton. "I thought they were gonna lead us around the Loop."
From the air, police could be seen throwing spikes across the freeway at least five times. A couple of tires were punctured, but the van kept going.
The driver took I-45 southbound from the North Loop and headed back toward southeast Houston.
At one point, he ran into a traffic jam but managed to weave in and out of other vehicles. He ran into the open driver’s door of an HPD patrol car.
The van finally blew a tire when he exited I-45 on Old Spanish Trail. Smoke could be seen coming from the back of the van and the driver began weaving, but he still didn’t slow down.
Hundreds of witnesses who watched the chase on television, ran outside when they realized it was coming their way.
"Indy 500. That’s what it looked like," said James Mea, a witness.
Some witnesses said they saw the driver waving and flashing the peace sign when he went past them.
The minivan raced through residential neighborhoods on MacGregor in the Third Ward area, passing MacGregor Park before turning onto Scott Street.
When the driver headed back toward the South Loop where the whole thing started sparks and flames began shooting out from under the van.
The driver was forced to pull over because the front passenger tire was completely gone and he was driving on the rim.
The passenger got out of the van immediately with his hands up. He has pink and purple polka dots in his hair, but we don’t know his name.
"He’s got a buzzed head with pink polka dots. I have no clue. New statement? Not up one that one," said Upton.
The driver’s pants fell down when police were handcuffing him.
Police found money inside the minivan and they believe the suspected crooks threw something out the window around the Loop at Lockwood on the northeast side. They searched the area, but we don’t know if they found anything.
One guy heard about the chase on his scanner and joined in.
"I, it was adrenaline rushing, something to do on a day off," said Chrishon Bell.
Joining a police chase is not a good idea and could get you hurt or arrested.
Fortunately, no one was hurt during Wednesday’s chase. But one police officer may be nursing a sore ankle after tripping over a curb when the suspect surrendered.