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Wild chase through Rohnert Park ends in man's arrest

A stolen pickup sits abandoned at the Budget Inn on Redwood Driver in Rohnert Park following a police chase on Monday, May 6, 2013.

Published: Monday, May 6, 2013 at 11:43 a.m.
Last Modified: Monday, May 6, 2013 at 2:42 p.m.

A 45-year-old Petaluma man was arrested Monday morning after a lengthy chase through Rohnert Park during which he rammed a stolen landscaping truck and trailer through backyards and fences and finally was stopped at a motel, police said.

Matthew Knope was arrested on suspicion of assault with a deadly weapon on a police officer, evading police, an unspecified violation of his probation and possession of stolen property, namely a white pickup and green trailer.

The chase lasted nearly 15 minutes, during which Knope drove onto three residential properties, "just wiping through fences and driving through backyards . . . all the while still towing the landscape trailer," Rohnert Park Police Sgt. Aaron Johnson said.

About 8 a.m. Monday, police received a report of the theft of a white pickup and green landscape trailer from the WalMart parking lot on Redwood Drive. Soon, dispatchers were told of a reckless driver in the Budget Inn parking lot further south on Redwood Drive.

The vehicle left the hotel, but dispatchers next heard about it from residents across town. Neighbors reported that a white truck and trailer had struck vehicles and careened along a creek path in the city's "D" section east of Highway 101.

At about 8:30 a.m. on Emily Avenue, an undercover officer spotted the truck, towing a trailer outfitted with red leaf rakes and green garden hoses. Four police cars gave chase, but the driver refused to pull over.

The truck eventually turned into San Rafael Court, a cul-de-sac near Rohnert Park Expressway. Johnson later acknowledged thinking the chase was coming to an end.

Instead, Knope drove up a driveway, crashed through the fence and continued driving through three backyards, police said.

Johnson drove his police motorcycle to an adjacent court in case Knope emerged there on foot. But Knope stayed in the truck, somehow keeping it rolling even as it accumulated a wheeled recycle can and other debris underneath it.

"Much to my surprise, he came blasting through the wooden fence of another yard and dragged the recycle can down the street," Johnson said in a statement. "He saw me on my police motorcycle and decided I was his target. He accelerated and started swerving at me until I was able to maneuver out of the way."

Knope next headed west on Rohnert Park Expressway, the truck still dragging the recycle can, Johnson said. At times the pickup reportedly hit 60 mph.

Knope drove back to the Budget Inn. There, the truck struck two other vehicles, jumped a curb and came to rest touching the wall of Room 504.

Officers chased Knope and arrested him in a nearby motel room. He was taken to a hospital for evaluation.

"Our suspicion is that he may be under the influence of a controlled substance," Johnson said.

You can reach Staff Writer Robert Digitale at 521-5285 or robert.digitale@pressdemocrat.


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