An Oakland man driving a U-Haul van while apparently intoxicated led Cotati police Thursday night on a brief Highway 101 chase before he crashed the van down an embankment and ran, according to Cotati police.
A search of the northern Petaluma rural area failed to turn up the man, but hours later Petaluma police found the pursuit suspect and he was arrested, Cotati Lt. Bill French said Friday.
Zachary Rukstela, 39, was taken to a hospital after his arrest. He’d suffered an apparent back injury from crashing the van down the embankment off the lower end of the Cotati grade, French said.
Cotati officers were alerted to a possible drunken driver at about 7:15 p.m. when a citizen called to say the man had nearly hit their vehicle with a moving van. Officers contacted the driver, who was still in the van, at the 76 gas station on Highway 116 at Redwood Road.
Rather than talking to the officers, the man took off in the van, taking the nearby southbound Highway 101 entrance with officers behind him. Toward the bottom of the Cotati grade the driver yanked the van off the highway and drove down the hill, crashed near Pepper and Stony Point roads and ran.
Cotati officers were joined by several law enforcement officers from multiple agencies, who helped search the rural area. French said the man probably laid low for quite awhile before he started to head into town.
At about 1 a.m. Petaluma officers were called about a suspicious man walking along Petaluma Boulevard North and they found the uncooperative Rukstela on the boulevard near West Street, French said.
Officers arrested the suspect on suspicion of felony drunken driving, evading police and hit-and-run, as well as reckless driving, French said.
Officers found an open bottle of hard liquor inside the van, according to French.