Creek Rescue

MIKE KUNDICK (LEFT) of the New Bethlehem Fire Department helps Clarion County Sheriff’s Department Cpl. Justin Swartzfager off a narrow ledge on the Armstrong County side of Red Bank Creek following a fugitive chase June 10. Collin Polka reportedly fled authorities last Wednesday while being arrested on outstanding warrants at a New Bethlehem apartment

NEW BETHLEHEM – A New Bethlehem area man is in custody after a recent attempt to serve a warrant quickly evolved into a 20 minute chase by local law enforcement agencies.

Collin David Polka, 27, was arrested on Wednesday, June 10 along Red Bank Creek in New Bethlehem.

According to Clarion County Sheriff Rex Munsee, Polka was wanted on two counts of retail theft. After failing to appear in court in January, a warrant was issued for his arrest.

“We got information that he was living in [an apartment building] in New Bethlehem,” Munsee said, noting that two two of his deputies, Damien Avery and Cpl. Justin Swartzfager, along with three Clarion County Probation officers arrived at the Broad Street apartment at approximately 10 a.m. on June 10 to take Polka into custody.

Upon exiting the apartment, Munsee said, Polka fled down the hall and left the building by way of the fire escape. Officers pursued him to Red Bank Creek, where Polka allegedly jumped into the water and swam to the Armstrong County side.

Continuing the pursuit, officers found Polka hiding on the bank under some rhododendrons.

“They flushed him out and he ended up back in the creek,” Munsee said. He explained that once in the water, Polka got caught in the current and was washed over the dam.

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After observing Polka attempting to swim down the creek, state police commandeered a boat, got him out of the water and placed him in the custody of Clarion County Probation at approximately 10:20 a.m., Munsee said.

A boat also had to be deployed to help Cpl. Swartzfager from a narrow ledge along the creek bank.

“It was a combined effort between Clarion County Probation, state police, the New Bethlehem Police Department and my office,” Munsee said of the incident.

Following his arrest, Polka reportedly complained of chest pains and shortness of breath, and was transported to Clarion Hospital for an evaluation.

“He was checked out and was basically told that he had strained his chest while trying to swim,” Munsee said.

Upon release from the hospital, Munsee said, Polka was remanded to the Clarion County Jail, where outstanding warrants from other counties were also discovered. Additional charges for the attempted escape are also expected.

“He [Polka] risked his own safety and the safety of everyone else,” Munsee said. “It all started with a simple warrant. No one thought it would end the way it did.”

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