Daniel Bruce identified as driver of stolen vehicle
After evading law enforcement in a stolen vehicle, accidentally igniting a cornfield on fire and injuring himself while attempting to flee on foot Thursday afternoon, Daniel A. Bruce, 30, Terre Haute, is recovering at St. Vincent Hospital in Indianapolis.
He has not been taken into custody as he recovers from his injuries but an arrest warrant is inevitable and would see him charged and taken into custody once recuperated.
The search for Bruce was part of a larger investigation into stolen vehicles that led the Putnam County Sheriff's Department (PCSD) to assist Bainbridge Police in serving a warrant on Wednesday.
While serving that warrant, officials learned that Bruce had been seen in the area driving a Ford F-150 that had been stolen from Morgan County several weeks prior.
Regional enforcement agencies were on the lookout for the truck and on Thursday, Bruce drove passed Capt. Tom Helmer on County Road 900 North as the two drove in opposite directions.
Helmer, not wanting to spook Bruce into a pursuit, continued driving before turning around to follow the stolen vehicle, remaining a half-mile behind and choosing not to activate his siren or his lights.
"We don't want anybody getting hurt," Helmer explained. "He passed me and I was trying to catch up to him."
As Helmer followed, the driver turned south on County Road 500 East, stirring up dust on the gravel roadway.
Helmer continued to follow the vehicle but, due to dust, was unable to directly see the vehicle.
"All of a sudden, the dust was gone," Helmer said.
With assistance from the State Highway Department, officials located the vehicle which had been abandoned in a cornfield that subsequently ignited a small fire from the catalytic converter.
Officials set a perimeter around the area and sent two K9 units, one from the Hendricks County Sheriff's Department and another from Roachdale, to track and located the suspect.
Bruce was apprehended when Roachdale Marshal Mike Mahoy's K9 partner Toby located him half submerged in Big Walnut Creek.
Bruce was found "unresponsive, partially unconscious and in the water," according to Lt. Doug Nally, and due to the difficulty of removing Bruce from the location, a series of emergency transportation methods had to be employed, including a Stat Flight helicopter.
"He was in such an awkward place," Nally said.
Bruce will be made financially responsible for the medical services required to extricate him, although the exact costs of the helicopter, ambulance and hospital services are unknown.
The Ford F-150 was not the only stolen item, a stolen motorcycle was in the bed of the truck and numerous personal items, including athletic equipment, a wallet and text books believed to be from a series of vehicular break-ins from Hendricks County were found in the cab.
Bruce has a history with stolen vehicles and property, having at least 18 charges brought against him in at least four counties since 2002, when he was just 18 years old.
His most recent was a charge of felony auto theft on Nov. 27, 2014 in Vigo County for which he was awaiting a jury trial slated for May 19.
The cornfield fire was extinguished by the Floyd Township Volunteer Fire Department (FTVFD) before it spread any more than about 20 feet around the truck.
Nally said working in concert with other officials was key to the success of the apprehension of Bruce.
"When all is said and done it was a pretty big collaboration of agencies that helped get all this," Nally said.
In all, at least eight agencies worked together to apprehend Bruce, including the Putnam County Sheriff's Department, Roachdale Police, Bainbridge Police, FTVFD, the Hendricks County Sheriff's Department, Indiana State Police, Operation Life and the Indiana Department of Transportation.