Missoula, MT (KGVO-AM News) - On June 10, 2023, Missoula Police Department officers were patrolling together near the intersection of Reserve Street and Palmer Street. An officer observed a silver Jeep Liberty in the lane next to her, also traveling southbound. The male driver of that vehicle initially appeared normal and calm before he observed the patrol car, at which time the driver became extremely nervous and fidgety.  

The driver continued to appear nervous as the officer pulled in behind the Jeep. The officer ran the Jeep’s plate number and it returned stolen from a Montana dealership. The officer activated her overhead lights to conduct a traffic stop.  

Jeep Flees From Officers

The Jeep then accelerated rapidly, nearly rear-ending the vehicle in front of it before pulling into a parking lot. The officer pursued the Jeep through the parking lot and noted the Jeep continued to accelerate. 

The Jeep exited the parking lot, failing to yield to a stop sign, and drove onto Mullan Road, the Jeep ran a red light at Reserve and Mullan, then onto Reserve St. in the southbound direction. During this time, the Jeep reached speeds of over 75 mph in a 45 mph zone.  

During this same time, the driver left Reserve Street and abruptly turned onto the sidewalk and onto the walking trail, reaching speeds of approximately 45 mph. The Jeep then exited the sidewalk and traveled on Reserve Street again before being met by a barricade of patrol cars blocking the southbound lanes of Reserve Street. 

Driver Forces Several Vehicles Off the Road

The Jeep then turned westbound onto third street, turning directly in front of an officer’s patrol car. The Jeep continued fleeing on 3rd Street, Clements, South Avenue, Humble Road, and Sprugin Road, at times reaching speeds more than 80 mph, with the highest posted speed limit of 35 mph. While in pursuit of the Jeep, an officer noted the Jeep intentionally went into the oncoming lane of traffic, causing several vehicles off the road.

During the pursuit, court documents indicate the Jeep failed to stop at the intersections with traffic control devices without slowing down, including the stop sign at North and Clements, the stop sign at Clements and South, the stop sign at Humble and North, the stop sign at Clements and North again, the stop sign at 37th and Spurgin, the stop sign at Spurgin and Reserve and a red light at Reserve and South. The officer also witnesses several near collisions with motorists due to the Jeep’s driving. 

At one point, the Jeep was forced to slow to approximately 10 mph due to heavy traffic. It was at this time that the officer applied force to the rear corner of the Jeep, which caused it to lose traction and spin out. The Jeep became immobilized and was eventually boxed in by several other officers. 

Suspect is Identified

The driver, later identified as 34-year-old Joseph Allen Sleepingbear, and his female passenger were ordered out of the vehicle at gunpoint. Once Sleepingbear was secured in a patrol car, he was advised of his Miranda rights. When asked why he did not yield, Sleepingbear told the officer that he did not want to go back to prison.

It was later discovered that Sleepingbear is on federal probation in Nevada. When asked who the Jeep belonged to, Sleepingbear stated he did not know, however, it was later determined that the Jeep was reported stolen out of Salt Lake City, Utah on May 17, 2023. 

Sleepingbear was placed under arrest and transported to the Missoula County Detention Center. He is currently being charged with felony theft and five counts of felony criminal endangerment. 

The information in this article was obtained from sources that are publicly viewable.

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