ROSEVILLE, CA - A special Roseville police task force has now been formed to track down a suspected car thief and ex-felon who eluded officers three times in four days.
Gary Lee Fowler, 43, is wanted for stealing cars at an Enterprise Rent-A-Car lot in Roseville Sunday night after breaking open a lock box. Minutes later, he was spotted in one of the cars by Roseville police officers who trailed him to a nearby Walmart store where Fowler made his first Houdini-like move.
"Has able to elude us by running through the store and going out the back, that was the first time he got away from us," Roseville police Sgt. Darin DeFreece said.
Roseville officers next spotted Fowler on Tuesday night, almost exactly 48 hours later, driving the one rental car that had not yet been recovered. They chased him to Roseville's Saugstad Park where Fowler jumped out and ran.
Officers from at least four different agencies poured into the area, but Fowler had vanished.
"Lot of obstacles for law enforcement as far as tracking with dogs and helicopters," said DeFreece, who added that Fowler knew the park quite well.
A day later, Roseville police detectives were checking a home on Night Star Court in Antelope where they believed Fowler had friends. As they arrived, the suspect bailed out the back door.
"He was jumping from house to house and he's really fast," said Samara Bathe, who lives a few doors down and who watched as the officers and a SWAT team moved in.
Detectives gave chase when they realized Fowler had taken off, but worried that he might have a gun and had to make a difficult decision with Fowler jumping from yard to yard as startled neighbors tried to point him out to police.
"Whether or not he gets away at that time or whether or not you get in a shooting with somebody. I mean, it's a tough call," said DeFreece, recalling the third time Fowler had slipped away.
Investigators consider the suspect very dangerous.
"Years ago, he was involved in a shootout with police officers where he was actually shot by police officers (and) exchanged gunfire with them," DeFreece said.
Police caution anyone who may be hiding Fowler that they could face serious charges for harboring a fugitive.
Officers are worried that when they find Fowler, he may not give up without a fight.
"(He) told his parole agent that he wasn't going to go back to prison and that he would rather die by suicide via cop," DeFreece said.