A 19-year-old Kalispell man pleaded guilty to two counts of theft and one count of criminal endangerment a month after he stole a railroad maintenance truck and led police on a high-speed chase near Coram.
Tyler Rodney Volkmann appeared before Judge Amy Eddy in Flathead County District Court on Jan. 5. Volkmann was initially scheduled for an arraignment on charges of theft, criminal endangerment and assault on a police officer stemming from the December incident, but Public Defender Greg Rapkoch handed a signed plea agreement to the judge moments after she called the case.
Volkmann agreed to plead guilty to felony theft and criminal endangerment stemming from the December incident and a second theft charge stemming from a June 2016 incident. Volkmann will be sentenced next month.
According to court documents and testimony, Volkmann was initially charged with theft in June after being accused of stealing a Ford F-250 from a Columbia Falls man. When questioned by law enforcement, Volkmann said the man had let him borrow the vehicle.
On Dec. 14, 2016, the Flathead County Sheriff’s Office received a report of a stolen vehicle from Northwest Truck Repair. According to the report, someone had allegedly snuck into the shop yard, got into a 2006 Sterling Acterra owned by BNSF Railway and rammed through a gate before leaving the scene. Deputies were able to trace the vehicle to the Coram area with the help of BNSF employees who tracked it on a GPS system.
A sheriff’s deputy spotted the railroad maintenance truck stuck in the snow near U.S. Highway 2. When the deputy pulled up behind the vehicle and turned on his lights, Volkmann backed the truck up and nearly hit the deputy. Volkmann started to drive toward Coram, leading multiple deputies on a high-speed chase. Volkmann turned onto Seville Lane and nearly hit another vehicle. The stolen vehicle got stuck going up a hill and Volkmann once again backed up, nearly hitting another deputy. Another sheriff’s deputy got out of his vehicle and tried to shoot the truck’s tires in an effort to slow the vehicle down.
Further down the road, deputies set up a spike strip in an effort to stop Volkmann but moments before hitting the strip, Volkmann quickly turned the vehicle. Volkmann drove the vehicle off the road and into a tree before fleeing on foot. Officers found Volkmann hiding under a tree and placed him under arrest.