Feb. 14—EAU CLAIRE — An Eau Claire man stole a cargo van from U-Haul in Eau Claire and then led authorities in Barron County on a high-speed chase with the same vehicle two weeks later, authorities say.

Luke J. Shilts, 33, 3823 Paula Court, is charged in Eau Claire County Court with a felony count of theft of movable property.

Shilts will make his initial court appearance on March 1.

Shilts is charged in Barron County Court with felony counts of attempting to flee an officer, second-degree recklessly endangering safety, possession of methamphetamine and second-offense possession of marijuana, and a misdemeanor count of retail theft.

Shilts will appear in Barron County Court today.

According to the criminal complaint in the Eau Claire County case:

U-Haul officials contacted Eau Claire police on Jan. 25 to report that Shilts rented a cargo van on a one-day contract on Jan. 15 and failed to return the vehicle.

U-Haul officials called Shilts multiple times with no success. The van is valued at about $40,000.

According to the criminal complaint in the Barron County case:

On Jan. 30, the Rice Lake Police Department received an alert from a Flock License Plate Reader camera at approximately 2:33 p.m. that a U-Haul van stolen out of Eau Claire had been detected.

Barron County Sheriff’s Office Deputy Jeff Wolfe located the unoccupied U-Haul in the parking lot of Kohl’s at 2960 Decker Drive. Sgt. Kevin Reinikainen of the Rice Lake Police Department and other law enforcement officers responded to the location.

Reinikainen saw two men leave Kohl’s but they didn’t seem to be carrying anything. The got into the van and officers drove toward it. Rice Lake Investigator Brandon Bohl pulled his unmarked patrol squad with its emergency lights activated in front of the van while Reinikainen pulled up behind it with lights on.

The van reversed a few inches and then maneuvered forward around Bohl’s squad at a high rate of speed. Reinikainen and other officers began to pursue the vehicle.

The van drove onto Decker Drive, approached the Highway O intersection at a high rate of speed and entered the intersection without yielding to traffic. As the van turned into the highway’s westbound lanes it pulled in front of an SUV traveling west. The SUV was unable to avoid colliding with the van and struck it on the rear passenger side. The SUV was deflected to the north and traveled up and over a five- to six-foot-high snowbank.

The U-Haul van went the opposite direction of a roundabout and then turned onto the Highway 53 on-ramp, heading south.

The pursuit continued with speeds varying from 90 to 110 mph. Chetek Police Chief Ron Ambrozaitis successfully deployed stop sticks.

After the van struck the stop sticks, it left Highway 53, turned west on Highway I, and began to smoke and lose pieces of tire. It continued west at speeds ranging from 45 to 65 mph with both front tires deflated. It continued, turning west on Highway A.

The pursuit continued into the village of Dallas. At the intersection of Highway A and 16th Street, the van slowed and Deputy Jacob Winkler approached it with his handgun drawn. The van then came to a stop.

The driver, identified as Shilts, was taken into custody without further incident.

Shilts said he fled because he thought he had warrant and also admitted to stealing shoes.

Shilts is being prosecuted as a repeat offender in Eau Claire County. He has been previously convicted of four felony charges in Eau Claire County.



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