Buttercreek Equipment owner Louie Hanson woke up about 6:30 a.m. Tuesday and heard what he thought was someone breaking into his store on South Highway 395.

What he heard was someone breaking out.

“At first, I thought someone had hit the building, then I thought someone was trying to break in,” Hanson said. “Then the whole building started to creak and pull.”

Hanson, who stays in an apartment above the building several nights a week, quickly got dressed and walked downstairs to his store —  just in time to see one of his high-end Kubota RTV utility vehicles backing through the front doors of the building and into the parking lot. Hanson dialed 911 and ran out the side door of the building, where he saw the Kubota heading south on Highway 395.

It didn’t make it very far. The RTV turned west on Feedville Road at about the same time Hermiston Police Department squad cars were arriving on the scene. The squad cars then cornered the RTV in the Swaggart Construction parking lot, only to have the driver of the utility vehicle begin ramming one of the squad cars.

Police finally arrested Logan J. Blair, 22, and charged him with two counts of attempted assault in the third degree, unlawful use of a motor vehicle, burglary in the second degree, criminal mischief in the first degree, resisting arrest, attempted escape in the first degree and escape in the second degree.

Blair was lodged in the Umatilla County Jail and bail was set at $75,000. A grand jury Tuesday afternoon returned a true bill on 10 counts: three counts of first-degree criminal mischief, second-degree burglary, unauthorized use of a vehicle, attempt to elude with a vehicle, escape in the second degree, reckless driving, interfering with a police officer and harassment. A preliminary hearing has been set June 12.

Access to the store was apparently gained by breaking the glass in a door in the back of the building. The thief then found keys for the Kubota and exited through the front.

According to an HPD press release, Blair has been a resident of the Horizon Project in Hermiston. Employees of the facility notified HPD at about 5:25 a.m. Tuesday that Blair was missing from the residence.

“Mr. Blair is known to the Hermiston Police Department, as he was arrested and lodged on May 25 after he allegedly broke the window out at the Shell Station located at 1655 N. First Street, Hermiston,” the press release said. Blair was charged with second-degree attempted burglary and third-degree criminal mischief after that incident.

The Horizon Project is described on its website as a facility that provides “vocational and residential services to adults with developmental disabilities. We also support such folks with an alternative work environment.”

Early estimates of damage at Buttercreek Equipment, including that to the stolen Kubota, were in the range of $10,000. The Kubota, priced at $15,350, suffered damage to the back and front end. The glass front doors were already being replaced Tuesday morning, and two 2.5-gallon containers of oil taken during the incident were spilled in the store’s parking lot during the getaway. Employees were still completing an inventory of damage and missing items Tuesday morning.

“It is not my intent to point fingers and place blame, but this is a prime example of a threat to society that could have been avoided with proper treatment if in fact Mr. Blair suffers from a mental health ailment,” HPD Chief Jason Edmiston said in the press release. “Instead, we have a business owner subjected to thousands of dollars in loss and city-owned police vehicles with significant damage likely to reach several thousand dollars.”

It is the third Kubota stolen from Buttercreek Equipment since last fall, according to Hanson. The previous two were stolen from the company’s parking lot.

One was recovered about a week after it was stolen. The second was recovered just last week after Morrow County Sheriff’s deputies found it abandoned near the county line. It had been spray-painted black and the starter had been burned out.

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