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Authorities hunt parolee who fled after motor home pursuit


 © The Associated Press In this frame from Tuesday, May 1, 2018 video provided by 23-ABC-TV Bakersfield, police chase an RV along a highway in Kern County, Calif. A paroled sex offender drove the motor home and gave police the slip after a 3.5-hour chase through California by turning into an almond orchard and disappearing into a cloud of dust kicked up by his vehicle. (23-ABC-TV Bakersfield via AP)

Associated Press

A paroled sex offender driving a motor home gave police the slip after a 3½-hour chase through California by turning into an almond orchard and disappearing into a cloud of dust kicked up by his vehicle.

The parolee, 46-year-old Stephen Houk, was still missing Wednesday and was considered armed and dangerous, the Los Angeles County Sheriff's Department said.

"We've got to find him," sheriff's Capt. Darren Harris said. "I have no doubt we'll catch up with him but we just want to do that before anyone else gets hurt."

Houk, who was on parole for felony sodomy in Oregon, led police on a chase Tuesday afternoon in Los Angeles after deputies tried to talk to him about a report that he had threatened his wife, Harris said.

Houk fled with his young children inside the motor home.

Police followed Houk from narrow surface streets in Hollywood more than 100 miles (161 kilometers) north to the agricultural heartland of California.

In Bakersfield, Houk repeatedly exited and re-entered the freeway and at times drove through the city and a busy Walmart parking lot, all with his 3-year-old son and 11-month old daughter in the vehicle, authorities said.

Eventually Houk turned on a dirt road to the orchard, where the motor home and police vehicles kicked up blinding dust, said Officer Robert Rodriguez, a spokesman with the California Highway Patrol.

When the motor home stopped with its front end under a thick canopy of trees, officers pulled back for safety, Rodriguez said.

Police eventually surrounded the motor home with armored vehicles and patrol cars, guns drawn, waiting for Houk to emerge. Instead, his 3-year-old son walked out about 45 minutes later.

Police then found the baby inside and Houk nowhere in sight.

"He got lucky," Rodriguez said. "All the forces came together and temporarily, they were on his side."

Houk is wanted for assault with a deadly weapon, making terrorist threats, kidnapping, and other charges.

The sheriff's department initially tried to speak with Houk after a customer at a Starbucks in Santa Clarita called police Tuesday morning to report that a woman outside said she had been threatened by her husband, that he had a gun, and she needed help, Harris said.

Later, Houk's wife told deputies that he had assaulted her earlier that morning and pointed a loaded gun at her.

It appears the family had recently traveled to California from Oregon but it's unclear whether they were living in the motor home, Harris said.

Most police chases end with immediate arrests, often after officers force cars to stop by puncturing tires or hitting vehicles in precision maneuvers. Officers didn't do that with Houk because of the children, who were unharmed and reunited with their mother, Rodriguez said.

"We were treating this with kid gloves because we didn't want to agitate the driver," Rodriguez said.

Houk once surrendered to police in a child sex abuse case in western Oregon in 2002, according to Lincoln County Circuit Court records.

Houk said "he knows what he did was wrong, that he was so ashamed, that he needs help, that he tried stopping hurting (the girl), but needs someone to stop him," according to a probable cause affidavit.

He pleaded guilty to felony sodomy and prosecutors dropped charges of sex abuse as part of a plea agreement. He served eight years in prison.


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U.S. - U.S. Daily News: Authorities hunt parolee who fled after motor home pursuit
Authorities hunt parolee who fled after motor home pursuit
U.S. - U.S. Daily News
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