Authorities have released the name of a man who stole a cop car and later crashed it into a semi on Interstate 29 Monday evening in Grand Forks.
The man has been identified as 33-year-old Jordan Lee Poitra. Police said Poitra's permanent residence is still being established but he did have ties to the Grand Forks community.
Poitra stole the Grand Forks Police car following a fight with officers, Grand Forks Police Lt. Derik Zimmel said.
Officers were dispatched to the Dollar Tree parking lot on South Washington Street around 5:05 p.m. Monday for a male subject with an unknown problem, police said. After locating Poitra, it was discovered there was an active warrant for his arrest for failure to appear out of Cass County. When police attempted to arrest Poitra, he began to fight and tried to take an officer’s weapon, according to police reports.
Police had previously said the officer's gun holster was broken. However, in an updated release, police said it had been "manipulated" in Poitra's attempt to withdraw the weapon.
At least one officer deployed a Taser in an attempt to subdue Poitra but was unsuccessful, the release said.
Poitra then disengaged from the officers and stole the police vehicle and fled west onto 17th Avenue South at a very high rate of speed, according to police.
Police said Poitra drove through the end of 17th Avenue South and went through a fence protecting Interstate 29 and then turned north on the interstate. Poitra then traveled a short distance on the interstate before angling to the west, crossing the media northbound and eventually striking a southbound semi truck in a near head-on collision.
Poitra died at the scene.
Zimmel said the truck driver was OK, but “shaken up.”
The involved officers were later treated and released from Altru for minor injuries sustained during the course of the fight.
The crash remains under investigation. The interstate was closed for part of the evening.
A man who witnessed a deadly car crash on Interstate 29 Monday said he watched the stolen police vehicle driving at high rates of speed just moments before veering into the path of an oncoming truck.
He told the Herald he was driving home from work on Interstate 29 going northbound when he saw a police car sitting in the ditch, facing west.
“Then he tore out of the ditch like a bat out of hell. He just floored it. There was rocks and grass and debris all over the place,” he said, adding he felt the driving was not typical for an officer.
He then saw the vehicle driving northbound at an extremely high rate of speed. The witness said he thought the driver may have been losing control of the vehicle. Dahl said he slowed considerably to give the vehicle room.
A short time later he said he saw a semi truck on the other side of the interstate and watched the police car head straight for the semi.
“He made a bee-line straight toward it,” he said. “He just shot ... straight at it and hit it.”
Video of the vehicle theft began circulating online shortly after the crash Monday evening. The video shows at least two police cars in the parking lot of the Town and Country Shopping Center on South Washington Street. In the video, a man runs into the frame and gets into the vehicle as an officer attempts to stop him. The man then drives away in the vehicle and out of the parking lot.