Reading Eagle, Pa.
The man accused of taking a $180,000 Reading Fire Department ambulance on a joy ride that ended 30 miles away in Lancaster County when he rear-ended a tractor-trailer while fleeing troopers faces numerous charges, city and state police said.
Raymond L. Gonzalez, 33, was committed to Lancaster County Prison in lieu of $75,000 bail following arraignment Monday night before District Judge David P. Miller in New Holland.
State police at Lancaster charged Gonzalez with fleeing or attempting to elude a police officer, receiving stolen property, reckless endangerment and driving without a license.
Reading police also charged Gonzalez on Monday with the theft of the ambulance, unauthorized use of a motor vehicle and reckless endangerment. He hasn’t been arraigned on those charges.
Troopers gave this account:
An off-duty Reading medic spotted the ambulance about 1 p.m. Monday while riding a motorcycle on Route 30 near Strasburg in Lancaster County. He realized a city primary-response ambulance had no business being that far from Reading, called 9-1-1 and followed it until a state trooper arrived and pursued the ambulance.
The trooper caught up westbound on East Newport Road, also known as Route 340, at New Holland Road in Leacock Township. The trooper stayed behind the vehicle with his emergency lights and siren on, but the driver, later identified as Gonzalez, sped up, passing other vehicles and accelerating to more than 80 mph in a 40 mph zone.
Another trooper joined the pursuit and drove next to the ambulance as it entered the village of Intercourse to keep it in its lane. The ambulance had slowed to under 20 mph, but it suddenly accelerated and struck the back of a tractor-trailer.
The troopers descended on the ambulance and removed Gonzalez, who was placed in the back of another ambulance for evaluation by medics.
The investigating trooper spoke to Gonzalez in the ambulance after reading him a Miranda warning.
Gonzalez admitted taking the ambulance that morning, saying he found it in the street and no one was in it. He didn’t say where he was going, only that he drove the ambulance on “the never-ending, winding road.”
Asked why he didn’t pull over, he said he “just didn’t want to stop.”
Reading officials gave this account:
The ambulance crew had responded to Kennedy Senior Center, better known as Kennedy Towers, 300 S. Fourth St., where Gonzalez is a tenant, shortly before 11:30 a.m. Monday.
Medics were tending to the patient in the high-rise for several minutes before bringing the patient out.
When they came out, their ambulance was nowhere to be found.
They called for another ambulance that took the patient to a hospital for non-life-threatening problems.
Reading police quickly put out a bulletin for area law enforcement to be on the lookout for Reading Fire Department Ambulance No. 4. They also took to social media, urging the public to call 9-1-1 if they saw the unit.
Fire Chief William I. Stoudt Jr. said the ambulance, which sustained heavy front-end damage, was towed to Reading and is being inspected by fleet maintenance personnel. Fire department officials are awaiting an insurance appraisal, he said.
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