HELENA – A stolen vehicle driven by a young woman being chased by officers narrowly missed crashing into the Montana Capitol on Monday, police said.
Workers in the Capitol say the silver Jeep Cherokee sped past their windows, drove up a dead-end parking drive and lodged against a snow bank before it stopped just inches from the large concrete steps leading to the building.
The driver then ran on foot, eluding officers in the Capitol complex area for another 15 minutes.
No one was hurt and business in the Capitol — which included a state land board meeting of the governor and other elected officials — was not interrupted.
The driver, Sarah E. Bunker, 21, of Butte, faces several charges. A 20-year-old female passenger in the vehicle was interviewed and released.
Officers apprehended the suspects about 20 minutes after the vehicle was reported stolen, said Helena Police Lt. Steve Hagen.
Hagen said the SUV had its keys in it when it was stolen just outside the city. The owner reported it stolen Monday morning, and it was spotted about 15 minutes later by Helena police officers.
The driver tried to get away from police for several blocks before getting caught in the dead-end at the Capitol steps.
“From this angle, I thought they hit the Capitol,” said Harper Lawson, who is chief of staff to the secretary of state and has a second floor office. “I looked closer and saw they missed the Capitol by just inches.”
Lawson said several officers chased the driver down the front of the Capitol.
Hagen said the theft appeared to be a crime of opportunity.
Bunker faces charges of felony possession of stolen property, fleeing or eluding police, reckless driving and obstructing a police officer, Hagen said.
Neither the state Capitol nor the vehicle were damaged, police said.
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