CANAJOHARIE – A man stole a woman’s car at gunpoint in the village, then led police on a chase down the Thruway that ended on a bike path in Herkimer County, police said.
No injuries were reported in the incident, including to the 2-year-old child who was with the woman when her vehicle was stolen, police said. The man fled with the vehicle alone.
The ensuing chase then spanned an estimated 30 miles, both on and off the Thruway, and at one point saw the suspect run Montgomery County Sheriff Jeff Smith off Route 5S as the sheriff, who had been in the area, attempted to intercept him, police said.
Jonathon Grico-Wolak, 30, of Utica, was charged with first-degree robbery, as well as grand larceny, reckless endangerment and menacing, police said. The robbery count could net up to 25 years in prison, if convicted.
The incident began just before 4 p.m. Wednesday at the Betty Beavers gas station on East Main Street in the village, police said.
Officers responded to a call that initially came in as a fight, but then arrived to find the woman, age 24, with her 2-year-old. The woman told police a man with tattoos on his face, later identified as Grico-Wolak, had pointed a silver handgun at her and her child and stole her vehicle, police said.
The man approached her as she was getting her child out of the vehicle, Canajoharie Police Chief Bryan MacFadden said Thursday.
“She was going to get out and he jumped into the driver’s seat, pointed what appeared to be a gun at her and the baby and said ‘Get out,'” MacFadden said.
The terrified woman grabbed her child and got away as the man fled in her vehicle, MacFadden said.
Grico-Wolak then drove to the nearby entrance to the Thruway and was soon intercepted on the interstate by state police and Montgomery County Sheriff’s units, police said.
A trooper on the Thruway had spotted the vehicle headed east and radioed ahead. Sheriff’s deputies then responded to the Fultonville exit, Sheriff Smith said.
As Grico-Wolak approached, though, he turned around and headed back east, before he broke through an access gate and exited at a non-exit to Route 5S, Smith said.
The sheriff, who was in the town of Root at the start of the incident, had responded toward the Canajoharie exit to head him off there, as village police were busy at the scene, Smith said.
Smith encountered the suspect approaching in the opposite direction, as Smith drove an unmarked vehicle, but one with lights.
“He came right toward me and forced me to take evasive action,” Smith said. The sheriff got off onto the grassy shoulder of the highway to avoid a collision.
“This was a dangerous individual who had just taken a vehicle at gunpoint. We didn’t know what he was capable of,” Smith said.
The suspect soon made his way back onto the Thruway and headed west, toward Herkimer County.
The pursuit continued onto West Jefferson Street in Little Falls, where troopers there located him, and continued onto the state canal trail.
Police said troopers determined Grico-Wolak was impaired by drugs and charged him with driving while ability impaired by drugs, as well as criminal impersonation and traffic violations.
The vehicle soon became disabled in a ditch, police said, and Grico-Wolak left the vehicle and fled into a wooded area. Troopers and a Montgomery County sheriff’s deputy spotted Grico-Wolak walking along the trail and he was taken into custody without further incident.
Sheriff Smith commended all the law enforcement on the incident, from Canajoharie police to the state police and his own deputies, saying they did an “outstanding job.”
As for the woman and her child in Canajoharie, MacFadden said they are doing OK, with the help of family.
Grico-Wolak was arraigned and ordered held on $100,000 bond.