Reckless driver rampages in RP
Petaluma man arrested after leading officers on wild chase
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By Dave Williams  May 10, 2013 12:00 am

A man was jailed on Monday, May 6, after leading Rohnert Park Dept. of Public Safety officers on a lengthy chase through main roads and surface streets that resulted in property damage to private residences and motel customers.

The suspect is 45-year-old Matthew Knope of Petaluma.

At approximately 8 a.m., the RPDPS dispatch center received a report that a truck and landscape trailer had been stolen from the Walmart parking lot in Rohnert Park. Within minutes, the dispatch center’s phone lines began receiving multiple calls about a reckless driver in the parking lot of the Budget Inn on Redwood Drive. Officers quickly responded to the Budget Inn, but the vehicle was gone. 

As officers searched the area for the truck and trailer, residents of D section in RP began flooding the dispatch center with calls of a white truck driving erratically and hitting several other vehicles as well as careening down a creek path.

Officers arrived to find a trail of debris, but there was no sign of the vehicle. An undercover police unit on Emily Avenue spotted the vehicle at around 8:30 a.m., and four police cars, including the undercover car, began the chase.

Knope allegedly was opening the door while the truck was moving, but he would not stop the vehicle. After what the public safety report described as several “laps” in E section, Knope headed toward San Rafael Court.

“I knew this was a dead end court, so I thought the chase was coming to an end,” RPDPS Sgt. Aaron Johnson said. 

But as the truck entered the court, authorities reported Knope drove up the driveway and started plowing through a front-yard fence. He continued through three backyards, all the while dragging evidence behind him.

“I drove my police motorcycle to the other court adjacent to where I saw him enter thinking I was going to pick him up on foot,” Johnson said. “Much to my surprise, he came blasting through the wooden fence of another yard and dragged the recycle can down the street. He saw me on my police motorcycle and decided I was his target. He accelerated and started swerving at me until I was able to maneuver out of the way.” 

Kathy Nave-Verdu is one of the homeowners on San Rafael Court significantly impacted by the actions of Knope. She was in bed when she heard a loud ruckus in her backyard.

“It sounded like a big earthquake at the side of my house,” said Nave-Verdu. “I looked out the door and saw this truck flying through the backyard with a trailer. It was going into the backyard of my neighbors and onto SF court. There are a lot of children in this area and he just bypassed jumpy the kids use. Thank goodness the child wasn’t in it”

She is also very thankful nothing happened to one of her daughters, who lives next door.

The damage done to Nave-Verdu’s home is extensive. Knope ran over the pool system in the home, including gas lines. She was forced to turn off the gas lines and had water from the pipes spraying all over. The pumps to her pool were damaged, and there is a hole in the outside wall caused by flying debris.

“It scared the (hell) out of me,” Nave-Verdu said. “I didn’t have a voice, I was shaking and couldn’t stop. I wouldn’t think this would happen in this neighborhood. People don’t usually come into courts.”

Knope then drove through the surface streets and ended up on Rohnert Park Expressway. He increased his speeds to 60-65 mph dragging debris from the neighborhood as well as the trailer. He ended up in the parking lot of the Budget Inn where he began doing laps at a high rate of speed. He hit two cars and eventually drove into the building where he jumped out and fled on foot. He was chased to a motel room where he was ultimately taken into custody without incident. 

Based on information gathered at the scene, officers suspect Knope may have been under the influence of drugs. 

Knope was booked for felony evading a police officer, assault with a deadly weapon on a police officer, assault with a deadly weapon, possession of stolen property (the white truck), and violation of probation.

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