A Plummer man is in jail on three felony charges after eluding police for nearly two weeks.
Austin Bowmer is charged with burglary, grand theft and eluding police after stealing building materials from a logging company’s property. He fled from officers twice during October, eluding the first pursuit after speeding through an active school zone and endangering children. Benewah County deputies arrested him with assistance from Coeur d’Alene Tribal officers after he attempted to flee from a traffic stop near Plummer.
Police reports from the Benewah County Sheriff’s Office and Coeur d’Alene Tribal Police, deputies began investigating after they received word from Bennett Lumber near DeSmet that someone had been stealing building supplies from a house on property they owned. Video footage showed at least two men taking wood and metal siding and roof materials from the residence, as well as an antique iron cooking stove. The total value of stolen items was estimated to be in excess of $4,000.
From the security footage, Deputy Tim Meagher was able to identify Ken Pluff, Jr., a member of the Coeur d’Alene Tribe, as well as another unidentified person. During a stakeout of the property, he also saw Pluff take the items to a location on the reservation.
Deputy Meagher reached out to Coeur d’Alene Tribal Police for assistance in the case. On October 15 at approximately 3 p.m., Officer Jason Robinson responded to Pluff’s residence near DeSmet to discuss the theft.
Pluff freely confessed the crime to the officer, saying he’d been waiting for police to knock on his door.
“Ken Jr. was up front and honest about his involvement, and said he knew ‘it was private property and gate’ and that it was ‘dumb on my part,’” Officer Robinson’s report said.
Pluff said he’d taken the items at the direction of an acquaintance in Washington, to whom he owed money. He said he felt obliged to take the items in order to clear his debt.
He admitted to stealing barn wood, metal siding and roof materials, and the vintage stove with the help of another man, whom he identified as Bowmer. He said they made several trips to the site for burglaries. Afterward, they would leave the items at a specified place, and the associate would pick them up later.
Officer Robinson also noted that Bowmer was also wanted in Benewah County after violating probation.
As the officer and suspect were talking, the officer was surprised to hear Pluff say, “there’s Austin right now.” Looking behind himself, the deputy saw Bowmer driving a vehicle toward the residence with a female in his passenger seat.
The officer ordered Bowmer out of the car, but Bowmer instead whipped the car around and accelerated away. Several of Pluff’s children were in the area when he did, and Pluff was distressed that they could have been struck by the vehicle.
Officer Robinson took off in pursuit of Bowmer, chasing him toward DeSmet at speeds in excess of 50 mph. Bowmer entered a school zone, not slowing as he sped down streets with children walking along and across them. Seeing this, the officer slowed his pursuit and radioed dispatch to place the Coeur d’Alene Tribal School on emergency lockdown.
Officer Robinson continued to pursue Bowmer, but was slowed by the presence of bystanders. Finally, he turned a corner to see Bowmer abandon his vehicle and flee on foot, while the woman inside the car also attempted to flee. The officer apprehended the woman – who had a child in tow – and signaled to another officer to continue pursuing Bowmer from his last known location. Bowmer was able to elude police by hiding among tribal housing in the area. Warrants were issued for his arrest by both Benewah County and the Coeur d’Alene Tribal Court.
Law enforcement caught up to Bowmer almost two weeks later on October 28. Deputy Dustin Pulley was stationed along Highway 95 when he saw a white sedan pass going approximately 80 mph toward Plummer. The deputy turned on his lights and sirens and moved to make a traffic stop.
The sedan did come to a stop. However, as the deputy was exiting his patrol vehicle, the driver – which he then identified as Bowmer – exited the vehicle and fled on foot. The deputy got back into his vehicle, got as close to Bowmer along the road as he could, then pursued him on foot when the suspect fled into a field.
The deputy chased Bowmer for approximately half a mile before he lost sight of him in a stand of trees. Fortunately, Deputies Brandon Vannatter, Deputy Donald Johnson and and a Coeur d’Alene Tribal Police Officer Jack Donneberg had also responded as backup, and he signaled for them to watch the other side of the thicket in case Bowmer fled that way.
The maneuver was effective, and Deputy Vannatter apprehended Bowmer in the field. He was taken to the Benewah County Jail, and is charged with three felonies and two misdemeanors in Benewah County, as well as charges in Kootenai County. No bail amount has been set at this time.
Ken Pluff, Jr., was issued a citation for his part in the burglary, but was not arrested due to his cooperation with police. In addition, several items which were not yet given to the associate – including the antique iron stove – were recovered at his property and returned to their owner.