Police: Panhandler steals car at knifepoint as driver offers change

EUGENE, Ore. -- A panhandler stole a car at knifepoint Saturday and later crashed the car as an officer closed in, police said.

An officer spotted the stolen Toyota Corolla driving on Centennial Boulevard in Springfield about 2 a.m. Sunday morning. After a short car chase, the driver crashed the stolen car into a water main and fled on foot.

A Springfield officer pursued and eventually took Anthony Byam, a 22-year-old homeless man, into custody. He faces multiple charges, including possession of a stolen vehicle, DUII and a felony charge of eluding by vehicle.

The incident started when a 21-year-old University of Oregon student reported leaving Full City Coffee on 13th Avenue and High Street at around 5:30 p.m. Saturday.

The student told police he was approached by a man asking for bus change as he was getting into his car. The victim gave him some change, but the man ultimately pulled a knife on the victim and demanded his car, said Eugene Police spokeswoman Melinda McLaughlin.

The man got into the student's maroon 1998 Toyota Corolla and drove off.

Around 2 a.m. Sunday, a Springfield Police Officer found the stolen Corolla near 18th and Centennial Blvd.

As the officer turned around, officials said the vehicle fled at a high rate of speed.

According to the police report, the car crashed into a water main near Mohawk Blvd and M St., both airbags deployed and Byam fled on foot.

The Springfield PD officer chased Byam through some nearby businesses and took him into custody near the Starbucks on 18th Street. Another officer was called out to conduct a DUII investigation.

Springfield Police charged Byam with felony elude by vehicle, unauthorized use of a vehicle, possession of a stolen vehicle, DUII, elude by foot, hit and run and reckless endangering. Byam has not been identified as the suspect in the initial carjacking.

Byam was later booked at the Lane County Jail on additional charges of unlawful entry of a vehicle, 1st degree criminal mischief and driving on a suspended license.

Officers said they found some evidence of the robbery inside the car, including a knife. A Eugene Police detective responded to help investigate the robbery side of the carjacking.