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Sheriff: Suspect in tow truck chase through Syracuse 'wanted to make a statement'

Christopher Ricks/ Onondaga County Sheriff's Office

The man suspected of leading authorities on a chase through Syracuse in a stolen tow truck is undergoing surgery for injuries he suffered during the chase, which saw several others injured, several vehicles struck and gunfire in multiple locations, according to Onondaga County Sheriff Eugene Conway.

Sheriff Conway identified the suspect as Christopher Ricks, 26, of Syracuse during a news conference Tuesday. Ricks is currently in custody, but has not been arrested or arraigned at this point due to his medical situation, Conway said.

Conway said Ricks was shot once in his lower extremities. Ricks' injuries were described as non life-threatening.

At least four other people were injured during the pursuit; three law enforcement officers, one from the Syracuse Police Department and two from the sheriff's office, and at least one civilian, Conway said. The deputies have since been treated and released, but the civilian's condition is not known, Conway said.

In a statement to investigators, Ricks admitted he stole the tow truck, Conway said. Conway added that Ricks told investigators he had been having a "hard time" since leaving the Onondaga County Justice Center last year and had been asked to leave the Rescue Mission, which had been offering him assistance prior.

"And that really, in his words, 'Screwed him up,'" Conway said. Ricks told investigators he struggled to get by after that, and told them "all he really needed was help," according to Conway.

Conway said that is what apparently led to the theft of the AAA tow truck while it was assisting a motorist on Townsend Street Monday afternoon. Ricks indicated he saw the door of the tow truck ajar and saw the opportunity to take it, according to Conway.

"He was very flippant in his statement," Conway said. "(He) says he put on his seatbelt, turned on the music in the cab of the AAA [tow truck] and took off going on a ride."

The pursuit saw the involvement of both the Syracuse Police Department and then the Onondaga County Sheriff's Office. Along the way, several vehicles were struck and law enforcers fired their weapons at four separate scenes while attempting to stop the tow truck. Conway said on more than one occasion, Ricks allegedly put the tow truck into reverse to intentionally ram into his pursuers.

"In the coming days you'll see where he intentionally would just drive into someone's vehicle who was parked — not necessarily a police officer's vehicle, but random vehicles — for no unknown reason other than apparently, like I said, he wanted to make a statement and this was his means of doing it; by creating this kind of harm," Conway said.

At least nine civilian vehicles were damaged, as well as two Syracuse Fire Department trucks, three sheriff's office vehicles and three Syracuse Police Department vehicles, Conway said.

The pursuit came to an end when the tow truck collided with a Syracuse Fire Department firetruck, which had responded to the area of the Rescue Mission on Gifford Street because parked vehicles in the area had been struck, Conway said. At that point, there was a struggle between a Syracuse Police Officer, a sheriff's deputy and Ricks, who was taken into custody, according to Conway.

"This is certainly something that is truly upsetting to our community for the amount of damage that he caused, for those that he injured," Conway said. "And as equally important for those that were put in danger yesterday.

"It's amazing to me that, but thankfully, that no one was struck by the vehicle while they were crossing the street or walking between a car when he hit some of these cars," Conway added.

Conway's office is handling the investigation into the majority of the incident, while Syracuse Police are handling the investigation into one of the shots fired incidents.

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