Tacoma man chases truck thief, suspect rams him with stolen truck

A Tacoma man is recovering from two traumatic events. Not only was his truck was stolen, but when he spotted the thief in the stolen truck and gave chase, the suspect used the truck as a weapon to ram into him.

"My thought was, there goes my truck, I want my truck back," said Joseph Elingnak of Tacoma.

Joseph is now healing after his run-in with the truck thief on Thursday.

"Airbag deployment, a couple stitches I’m really sore," he said. "I was hit pretty good."

He was very attached to his F-350 and when he realized it was stolen, he sprang into action.

"In that split second decision, I knew that was the only thing I was going to do," said Joseph.

Joseph kept his truck parked in his parent's yard in Tacoma and used a work van to commute.  He was heading to his job early Thursday when his folks called to say someone had taken off with the truck.  He started heading to their house to help with the police report.  At 147th St E and Waller Rd E, he spotted the thief heading out of the neighborhood in his Ford truck.

"It was definitely shocking. I didn’t expect to see the guy," said Joseph. "They were going twice the speed limit, and I was trying to follow."

Joseph says he called 911 as he tailed the suspect. "It was pretty obvious around a couple turns for sure, that I was chasing after them," said Joseph.

Under a half a mile later, near Brookdale Rd E and Waller Rd E, Joseph says the thief put the truck in reverse and slammed into the front of his van, crumpling the hood and injuring Joseph.

"I’ve been in bed for 3-4 days straight now not wanting to do much more.  It’s not fun," he said.

Data from Pierce County shows that auto theft numbers are down slightly for the month of April, but are still trending higher compared to 2021 and 2020.

Statewide, numbers are also high. The Washington Auto Theft Prevention Authority says data from the Washington State Patrol showed that auto theft had increased 17% in 2021 from 2020. This year the number of auto thefts in Washington is again trending higher.

"A friend of mine, his dad’s truck got stolen right out of the parking lot where he was shopping at here in Tacoma," said Joseph.

He says he had planned to install an "emergency kill switch" or alarm in his truck before the theft.  But, he says he should have acted on that idea faster.

Now Joseph is asking people to be on the lookout for the truck.  It's a maroon Ford, 2004 model, with a custom spider web "headache rack" on the back that makes it stand out.

"I worked very hard for that truck and I know that there’s no replacing it at this point, financially and otherwise.  It’s not easy to do that right now, especially with the way the used car market is," said Joseph.  "When, I bought that truck for a fair price, and now I couldn’t touch it for double what I spent on it.  It’s rough to come across vehicles these days that are in decent condition and ready to go for a fair price. So, replacing it is now a six month to a year goal."

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He says there was also a firearm in his truck at the time it was stolen, and fortunately the thief didn't use it.

"I would say it was frightening after the facts, once I realized I’m lucky he didn’t keep pushing me or realizing he had my firearm. It could have been worse," said Joseph.

In hindsight, he says he'd do some things differently, including staying further back from the suspect.  "I know if I were going back to rethink it, it would be to hang back and follow."  He says he'd also call the police prior to trying to follow the suspect.  He said he was on the phone with 911 during the chase and the crash, and it was more challenging to give directions.

If you see Joseph's truck, contact the Pierce County Sheriff's Office.