Bail set at $75K for man who fled from Centralia police in a kayak


Bail is set at $75,000 for the man who fled from Centralia police by stealing a kayak and taking to the Chehalis River on Wednesday.

Police were attempting to apprehend him for possession of a stolen vehicle.

Zachary Christensen, 39, of Steilacoom, was arrested and booked into the Lewis County Jail at 1 p.m. on Wednesday, June 12, according to jail records. 

During his preliminary hearing in Lewis County Superior Court on Thursday, Christensen said he had purchased the vehicle without knowing it was stolen and called the charges “a misunderstanding.”

Officers with the Centralia Police Department reportedly tried to initiate a traffic stop on a stolen silver 2006 Toyota Scion vehicle driven by Christensen in the 1800 block of Cooks Hill Road at about 8:47 a.m. Wednesday, according to court documents. 

The Centralia Police Department received a notification from its Flock Safety camera system about the vehicle, which was reported stolen out of Oregon, driving through the intersection of Mellen and Ellsbury streets about half an hour earlier, according to court documents. 

A detective who located the Toyota on Cooks Hill Road reportedly initiated a traffic stop after the Toyota took a right turn onto Summerside Drive, which is a dead-end street, according to court documents. 

Christensen reportedly stopped the vehicle after he “stuck his arm out of the driver’s side window and gestured with a ‘halt’ signal” and was seen “stripping away his outer clothing and … digging around in the vehicle,” according to court documents. When told to turn off the vehicle, Christensen allegedly yelled that he had a bill of sale for the vehicle and held a piece of paper out of the window. When the detective identified himself as a detective, Christensen allegedly “accelerated away after throwing the piece of paper out of the window,” reaching speeds of up to 50 mph in a residential zone. 

Detectives who later recovered the piece of paper found that it was the registration of the stolen vehicle, which had a note on the back of it claiming the owner of the vehicle had sold it to Christensen for $400. 

“The note was allegedly signed on June 7, 2024 and a poor copy of (the vehicle owner’s) registration was scribed at the bottom of the note,” according to court documents.
Detectives later confirmed the note was forged, and the vehicle had actually been stolen out of Portland on June 9. 

After fleeing from the detective on Cooks Hill Road, Christensen drove down the center of a two-lane road, past “children in the area waiting to be picked up for school” and into the driveway of a residence in the 200 block of Summerside Drive. The vehicle didn’t stop in the driveway, instead accelerating around the residence at a high enough speed that it skidded forward when Christensen slammed on the brakes, according to court documents. 

Christensen then allegedly exited the vehicle and ran northbound along the tree line into a steep, wooded area. 

While officers were setting up a containment area and waiting for a K9 unit to arrive, Christensen was reportedly seen walking away from a residence with a blue kayak, which officers later determined was valued at over $1,500. 

He was then seen entering the Chehalis River and getting into the kayak. 

“Christensen launched the kayak, which was determined to have been stolen from a nearby residence on River Heights Road, and paddled into the middle of the river,” the Centralia Police Department said in a news release about the incident on Wednesday. 

Officers continued to advise Christensen to stop at various points along the riverbank, but he refused to comply, according to police.  

While passing under the Galvin Road bridge, a Centralia police sergeant deployed several pepperball rounds into the water surrounding the suspect in an attempt to get him to stop. The maneuver did successfully get Christensen to drop his paddle, at which point he was seen attempting to paddle with his hands. 

The Washington State Patrol’s aircraft responded to the area and maintained visuals while also radioing his movements. 

Centralia officers deployed in kayaks with Riverside Fire Authority personnel and attempted to intercept Christensen. 

Christensen exited the east side of the river roughly 1 mile north of Galvin Road. 

A second Centralia police K9 team positioned on that side of the river was able to apprehend him.

“After a long pursuit involving numerous law enforcement officials, drones, kayaks, etc., the suspect was detained by the K9 who had to bite the suspect in order to stop him from running,” the Lewis County Prosecutor’s Office stated in charging documents filed on Thursday. 

Christensen was charged in Lewis County Superior Court on Thursday, June 13, with one count each of possession of a stolen vehicle, attempting to elude a pursuing police vehicle, second-degree theft, obstructing a law enforcement officer and resisting arrest. 

The most severe charge, possession of a stolen vehicle, is a class B felony punishable by up to 10 years in prison. The theft and attempt to elude charges are class C felonies, each punishable by up to five years in prison. Obstruction is a gross misdemeanor punishable by up to 364 days in prison, and resisting arrest is a misdemeanor punishable by up to 90 days in prison. 

Arraignment is scheduled for Thursday, June 20.

“The Centralia Police Department wishes to thank the Riverside Fire Authority, Chehalis Fire, Washington State Patrol, the Lewis County Sheriff's Office, Fish and Wildlife and the Department of Corrections for their assistance,” Centralia police stated in a news release.