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Illinois couple charged with Portage robbery, leading cops on chase

Updated: January 21, 2013 9:30PM



PORTAGE -- A man and woman from Harvey, Ill., were arrested after allegedly breaking into a Portage gas station to steal cigarettes, lighters and 5 Hour Energy supplements. Before they were captured, however, they allegedly rammed a squad car with their stolen van and led an on- and off-road chase to Lake Station.

Just before 1 a.m. Sunday, a clerk of the Marathon gas station on the opposite side of the highway called police when he saw a person climb over an exterior ice cooler and through a window into Luke Shell, at 6259 U.S. 20.

As the subject left in a white contractor-style van on northbound Crisman Road and stopped for a light, a squad car driven by a Portage officer pulled up behind him. The officer pursued the van north on Indiana 249 with the driver, presumptively Jerry Allen, 49, of Harvey, putting the van into reverse and ramming the squad car on the ramp to westbound Interstate 94.

The pursuit continued on the interstate, with more officers joining, until Allen took exit 16 in Lake Station before veering off the pavement at a high speed. Police said the van violently bounced down the hill before striking the bank of a ditch head-on and going airborne. The driver kept going, though, headed southwest toward the embankment of the onramp from northbound Indiana 51. After jumping that embankment as well, the van broke down and rolled to a stop in the grassy area in the middle of the cloverleaf.

The squad car that had been rammed earlier followed the van off the road, but at a slower pace, and got stuck in a ditch. Other squad cars, from the Portage and Lake Station police departments, got closer by taking Indiana 51 and their officers, now on foot, chased down the two people running from the crashed van.

Allen was arrested for Class C felony burglary, Class D felony auto theft and fleeing law enforcement with a vehicle; and misdemeanor criminal recklessness.

Melissa Bourland, 27, also of Harvey but of a different address, was taken to Portage Hospital for facial injuries and back pain from the crash. She had not been wearing a seatbelt and was thrown into the passenger-side windshield. After she was treated, she was taken to the Porter County Jail for Class C felony burglary and misdemeanor fleeing law enforcement and criminal trespassing, plus on two unrelated warrants through East Chicago.

The wrecked 2006 Ford Econoline van was found to have been reported stolen Dec. 10 in Chicago. In it, police found the approximately $760 worth of goods stolen from Luke Shell: more than 60 packs of cigarettes and approximately 100 cigarette lighters and 40 bottles of energy drinks.

In addition to the damaged van and squad car, another $8,500 in estimated damages was done to the gas station. Police said surveillance video showed the van backing up into the front of the building, damaging a rock wall and shifting the front sliding doors off their track. This prevented the culprits from using the main entrance, leading to them breaking the window above the ice cooler. A cash register containing $100 also was damaged.



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