The drama began at about 10 p.m. when the battalion chief returned briefly to the station after a fire earlier in the evening, said Laura Wohl of the Olympia police.
The chief inadvertently left his keys in the vehicle while he went inside. When he came out of the building to return to the fire scene, he found that the vehicle was missing.
Police were notified of the theft and the vehicle was spotted soon afterward by Tumwater officers as it was travelling at high speed on Capitol Boulevard, a major thoroughfare.
The police officer attempted to stop the vehicle, but the driver refused to pull over. The suspect continued to drive from Tumwater to Tenino, where officers were able to deploy spike strips.
The spike strips disabled the vehicle, which then slid off the road and crashed. The suspect was not hurt in the crash, but the $50,000 sport-utility vehicle is a total loss due to crash damage.
The suspect in the vehicle theft is a 26-year-old male transient. He was booked into the Thurston County Jail for investigation of theft of a motor vehicle, eluding a police vehicle, and malicious mischief.
His motive for stealing the vehicle is unclear at this time, police said.