TULSA, Okla. (Tulsa World) — A Tulsa man was arrested late Friday after reportedly stealing and crashing a vehicle towing the “Trump Unity Bridge.”
The traveling political attraction, decorated with American flags, a mini Lady Liberty and signs proclaiming “All lives matter” and “Build the wall,” hails from Michigan, where from Rob Cortis told the Tulsa World he set out across the country in July.
“We’re driving across America, putting America first, sharing positive messages,” he said.
Cortis said he and his crew stopped at an east Tulsa hotel for the night on their way from Texas to Missouri, and while they were checking in, a man hopped into the drivers seat of the SUV towing the float and sped away across landscaping, leaving the branches of nearby trees shaking.
“One of our girls came screaming, ‘They stole the Unity Bridge! They stole the Trump Unity Bridge!'” Cortis recounted.
Tulsa Police Sgt. Billy Hursh said officers spotted the massive attraction before a 911 call came in. They were headed to a disturbance call when they passed the sight, and the man’s driving was “so erratic and dangerous” officers immediately attempted to initiate a traffic stop.
The man, later identified as Drew Whipple, led officers on a short pursuit before crashing along 31st Street near Memorial Drive about 11:20 p.m., jack-knifing the SUV and trailer across a median.
He then fled on foot, but officers caught up to him across the street, arresting him.
“We run into interesting instances of criminality from time to time,” Hursh said. “This one’s noteworthy. Stealing peoples’ property is foolish under any circumstances, but this is definitely … flamboyant.”
No person was injured, but Cortis estimated the rig and the SUV sustained tens of thousands of dollars worth of damage. The SUV had just been repaired mechanically Friday morning in Texas, Cortis said.
“I work hard,” he said. “I don’t go out to hurt anybody. I’m very upset right now.
“Speakers are damaged, LED lighting, cables, connecters, the car’s smashed up, the engine’s — just, everything was repaired perfect today.”
Cortis appealed to area Republicans, Democrats “that don’t stand behind violence” and Trump supporters to aid in repairing the attraction.
“We need a lot of help,” Cortis said. “Let’s get it back on the road so we can start uniting America.”
Cortis has thousands of supporters who follow his travels online, and overnight at least three GoFundMe pages were organized to help with damages. As of Saturday afternoon, more than $70,000 was raised.
Whipple was booked into the Tulsa County jail on complaints of eluding, endangering others, larceny of an auto after a former conviction of a felony and reckless driving. He remained jailed Saturday in lieu of $15,000 bail.
The 37-year-old was on probation for convictions of similar larcenies, according to Oklahoma Department of Corrections records.
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