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Man arrested after taking stolen backhoe on late-night, slow-speed joyride

Deputies said the thief drove the stolen backhoe nearly 30 miles across multiple highways before he was finally spotted in Clackamas County.
Credit: Clackamas County Sheriff's Office

CLACKAMAS COUNTY, Ore. — An Aloha man stole a backhoe in Beaverton, then drove it nearly 30 miles at slow speeds across Portland-area highways in the early hours of Sunday morning, driving on the wrong side of the road and losing an Oregon State Police trooper during a traffic stop before finally being stopped by deputies, the Clackamas County Sheriff's Office (CCSO) said. 

Just after midnight on Sunday morning, a trooper spotted a backhoe driving near I-205 and Highway 213 in Clackamas County. The trooper tried to stop the backhoe, but the driver went the wrong way up the on-ramp from Highway 213. By the time the trooper looped back around, the backhoe was gone, deputies said. 

Clackamas County deputies on patrol started searching for the backhoe, and around 12:40 a.m. a resident reported seeing it near South Holly Lane and Redland Road. A deputy spotted it just after 1 a.m. driving on South Fischers Mill Road, straddling the double yellow line and driving on the wrong side of the road. The backhoe was traveling at estimated speeds of 10 to 20 miles per hour, deputies said. 

When deputies stopped the backhoe, the driver initially told officers he was "lost" but then admitted he'd stolen the backhoe from a lot at Southwest 141st and Tualatin Valley Highway in Beaverton, according to CCSO. The man then drove it nearly 30 miles, from TV Highway to Highway 217, onto I-5 and then onto I-205 before he was initially spotted by the trooper. 

Deputies arrested Mitchell Johnston. He had already had his license revoked from a previous felony, deputies said. Johnston is facing multiple felony charges. 

The owners of the backhoe came to pick up their stolen equipment at the scene. 


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