Man in stolen kayak prompts watery pursuit on Chehalis River


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A 39-year-old Steilacoom man was arrested Wednesday after fleeing from Centralia police, stealing a kayak and evading officers on the Chehalis River for several hours. 

Zachary Christensen was arrested and booked into the Lewis County Jail Wednesday afternoon.



At about 8:12 a.m. Wednesday, Centralia police received an alert from its Flock Safety camera system for a stolen vehicle in the area. 

Detectives located the 2006 Scion hatchback and attempted to pull the vehicle over. 

Christensen pulled over but failed to comply with commands to exit the vehicle, according to police.  

He then fled and was pursued by Centralia officers from Cooks Hill Road onto Summerside Drive, a dead end, where he abandoned the vehicle and fled on foot into a steep, wooded area.

A Centralia K9 unit was called and deployed to track Christensen while other officers contained the area. The K9 team tracked toward the Chehalis River, at which time a Centralia police drone pilot spotted Christensen running while carrying a blue 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. 

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 succeeded in getting Christensen to drop his paddle. 

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.

Christensen is facing charges of possession of a stolen vehicle and second-degree theft, as the kayak was valued at over $1,000. Christensen had multiple warrants for his arrest out of neighboring counties.

“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.