No Carjacking
A carjacking in Utah was thwarted by a manual transmission. Image: Hazel Motes/Flickr/CC BY

An Oregon couple was arrested Sunday following a high-speed chase by police in two different states. The man, wanted in a shooting incident, was foiled when he tried to hijack a car but was unable to operate the manual transmission.

Couple arrested after police chase

The couple, Roy and Jessica Fritts of Union, Ore., were arrested at about 1 p.m. in Echo, Utah, according to Sweetwater County, Wyo., detective Dick Blust Jr.

Victim in stable condition

The chase began when Roy Fritts, 33, shot a man who picked the couple up when they were hitchhiking. Fritts shot the driver, 54-year-old Edmund Thornell, so he could steal his van. Thornell, of Costa Mesa, Calif., is hospitalized and is in stable condition. He was lucid enough to report the incident to police.

Wyoming Police spotted the van about 30 miles away from the Utah border and began to chase the couple. Near the town of Echo, police successfully stopped the vehicle with tire deflation spikes.  The couple fled the van on foot into the town.

Suspect unable to drive a stick

The couple attempted to hijack another vehicle, forcing the driver from the vehicle at gunpoint. Fritts found he was unable to operate the car, so they abandoned it as well.

“He doesn’t know how to drive a stick shift,” Detective Blust said.

No shots fired

The suspects next tried to enter a private residence but were unable to get in. They fled into a field where Jessica Fritts was tackled and taken into custody. Roy Fritts engaged in a brief standoff with police but surrendered before any shots were fired.

A handgun was recovered from the suspect, but police are still unsure whether it was the one used to shoot Thornell. Police are also investigating reports that Fritts may have attempted to hijack another car in Summit County, Utah, before the couple was apprehended.

The couple is being held at the Summit County jail in Park City, Utah, while charges are being prepared.

A history of violence

Roy Fritts is wanted in Oregon for violating parole. He was convicted of two counts of aggravated attempted murder and two counts of using a weapon in the commission of a felony when he fired shots at officers during a high speed chase in 2001.


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