Front-end loader face-off: 1 arrested in Gwinnett heavy equipment chase

Suspect in stolen 75,000-pound vehicle stopped by pursuing officer in identical machine

Sometimes you fight fire with fire, and sometimes you must fight a front-end loader with another front-end loader.

A quick-thinking Gwinnett County police officer used a local waste management company’s front-end loader to disable an identical piece of heavy equipment driven by a disgruntled former employee Saturday, the law enforcement agency said.

The suspect, who was arrested on multiple charges, is accused of stealing the piece of construction equipment from his former employer near Duluth around 11 a.m., Gwinnett police said. The man allegedly led Gwinnett officers and Georgia State Patrol troopers on a low-speed chase along multiple busy public roads in the 75,000-pound vehicle.

The front-end loader could only be stopped by a similar piece of equipment, so a Gwinnett officer pursued the suspect in a second front-end loader volunteered by the waste management business. With an escort of patrol cars, the officer was able to catch up to the stolen vehicle and tip it over, ending the pursuit.

Officers had been called to the waste management company’s address, where the suspect was driving around his former employer’s property in the loader, police said. Investigators later learned the man had been fired in September.

Witnesses told police the suspect had recently returned to the business and commandeered a piece of heavy equipment during a similar incident, but he had not left the property that time.

The officer who responded Saturday tried to stop the man, but he continued driving and eventually turned onto the road, police said. Video footage from the officer’s body-worn camera showed him shouting and waving as the suspect drove past him.

Police said the man’s driving was unpredictable and erratic, including abrupt reversals and U-turns, as he led officers on a miles-long chase. They blocked traffic along the roads where the chase was happening to keep the public out of danger. Video released by police shows how at least one officer had to quickly accelerate out of the path of the front-end loader as it came around a corner and bore down on him.

Eventually, the officer who responded to the initial call got into another front-end loader and drove after the suspect with a garbage truck and several patrol cars escorting him, police said. Once he caught up, the officer made several attempts to stop the other vehicle. Dashboard camera footage from a patrol car that was following the clashing machines caught an officer muttering, “This is unbelievable.”

About five miles from the waste management company, the officer finally flipped the runaway loader onto its side.

The suspect was apprehended and taken to the hospital for a medical evaluation, police said. He was then booked into the Gwinnett jail on counts of criminal trespass, theft by taking, fleeing or attempting to elude, reckless driving, second-degree criminal damage to property and obstruction.

No one was injured and no other vehicles were damaged during the incident.