SALT LAKE CITY — Police spent the day Wednesday searching for a man who eluded them during a 20-minute chase through West Valley City and Salt Lake City and then at a Salt Lake Home Depot.
Just before 9 a.m. Wednesday, police located the car of the man who they believe had stolen a tan Ford F-350 almost a week ago in a residential area near 7200 W. 3100 South, according to Lt. Allan Shinney with the Utah Motor Vehicle Enforcement Division. The license plates had since been changed.
Police identified the man as Travis McDonald, 31, of Bountiful. He was still on the run Wednesday night.
Police had surrounded the residence, blocking McDonald's escape, when he drove over the lawn, mowing down a stop sign in his path, Shinney said. Police pursued him to an industrial area near I-80 and 5600 West, where they say McDonald drove the truck into a ditch. Police found a rifle and construction equipment in the abandoned truck.
McDonald then stole a Chevrolet truck from a contractor working for Nicholas and Co. and drove it through a wrought-iron fence, according to Shinney. Officers later spotted the man and followed him to Home Depot at 328 W. 2100 South.
A security guard at a nearby McDonald's restaurant, Leonard Tarver, said he spotted a man with a red beard running into Home Depot, so he notified an approaching officer.
A Home Depot employee said she saw a man matching McDonald's description in the store about 10 minutes before all employees were asked to evacuate and police surrounded the building.
More than 50 Home Depot employees milled around the parking lot of the store as officers searched the building for McDonald.
Police cars surrounded the building, a K-9 unit was brought in and officers were also positioned on the roof. After almost an hour, police said they could not find the man.
McDonald is a suspect in a series of other crimes beginning three weeks ago. Officers received a tip that he may have been involved in the theft of other vehicles and approached him at Callaway Apartments, Shinney said.
McDonald allegedly attempted to run over two responding officers when fleeing police in a car that had no license plates. Police do not suspect that vehicle was stolen.
Last Thursday, officers on patrol in West Valley City ran the license plate of a vehicle located near 7200 West and 3100 South, and found that it had been stolen. McDonald escaped in the vehicle, and police did not pursue him at that time.
Investigators located the vehicle in the same driveway Wednesday morning, leading to the chase.
"This guy's a bad apple," said Charles Roberts with the Utah State Tax Commission's Motor Vehicle Division.
McDonald is no stranger to law enforcement.
On Oct. 25 he was charged with felony drug possession and possession of drug paraphernalia. In that case, McDonald was a passenger in a vehicle pulled over by the Metro Gang Unit. Detectives said they found a "case" in McDonald's pants containing methamphetamine and a drug pipe.
In September, he was charged with three counts of theft by receiving stolen property, a second-degree felony, as well as various drug and weapons related charges. In that case, McDonald was arrested after he allegedly tried to use a stolen credit card. McDonald, who also had possession of a vehicle stolen from a home in Cottonwood Heights, told investigators he got the car from his "drug dealer," according to court documents.
Police interviewed McDonald in the back of a police squad car. When McDonald got out of the car to leave, the officer noticed a baggie that wasn't in his backseat before. The baggie contained meth, heroin and drug paraphernalia, according to court records. The officer also found a gun under the seat. Prosecutors say the handgun was determined to also be stolen.
When police searched the vehicle, they found other stolen items including a wallet, and a stolen set of spinal surgery implants worth about $20,000, court records state.
McDonald currently has warrants out for his arrest on both of those cases.
He was convicted of an amended charge of attempted possession of a dangerous weapon in 2011. He was also convicted of drug distribution and theft by receiving stolen property, for which he was sentenced to up to five years in prison, according to court records.
In 2006, McDonald was sentenced to prison in a string of cases that ultimately resulted in convictions of attempted felony theft and making a fraudulent financial transaction.
McDonald was first incarcerated at the Utah State Prison in March of 2006 and was released in November of 2008. He returned to prison in March of 2009 and was released again in June of 2011.1 comment on this story
He was most recently released from prison in March after being sent back in September of 2011.
Contributing: Pat Reavy