Newport police officers were dispatched to the Shell gas station at the Highway 101/Highway 20 intersection late Monday afternoon, Feb. 15, on a report of a stolen vehicle. The victim reported a man had taken her parked car and driven off, heading north on Highway 101.
During this same time, shortly before 5 p.m., police officers began receiving multiple reports of a reckless driver on Highway 101, which matched the description of the stolen vehicle, racing through and around traffic and intersections.
Officers began checking the area of these driving complaints for the stolen vehicle and the suspect. In the area of Highway 101 and Northeast 31st Street, they found a man running across the highway who matched the description of the suspect. The man was detained and identified as Joseph Luke Lenhardt, 38.
When questioned, Lenhardt admitted to stealing the vehicle, according to a press release issued by the Newport Police Department. He said he ran into a curb, which disabled the vehicle. He also reportedly admitted to driving the vehicle while it was damaged but then abandoned it about quarter of a mile off of Highway 101 on Northeast 31st Street. A witness reported seeing Lenhardt leave the vehicle and take off on foot.
Lenhardt also reportedly admitted to drinking and using methamphetamine just prior to stealing the vehicle, and he told officers he had stolen the vehicle in order to attend his scheduled court appearance in Yamhill County.
Lenhardt was transported to the Lincoln County Jail and lodged on charges of unauthorized use of a motor vehicle, theft in the first degree, unlawful entry into a motor vehicle, reckless driving, reckless endangering, fail to carry/ present license and driving under the influence of intoxicants.
The Newport Police Department was assisted by the Lincoln County Sheriff’s Office and the Oregon State Police.