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Brief ambulance joyride ends with arrest

A brief ambulance joyride ended in arrest for a Rapid City man on Saturday.

A suspect drove off with the ambulance while Rapid City Fire Department crews from the medic unit and an engine cared for a patient in the 400 block of Columbus Street about 9 p.m.

“The patient’s condition wasn’t jeopardized,” Fire Chief Mike Maltaverne said on Monday. "The patient was stable, and immediate transport wasn’t necessary.”

Crew members were alerted to the theft when they heard the ambulance’s backup alarm. They called police and requested a second medic unit, according to a fire department news release.

The ambulance was found about two blocks away, parked in an alley off Quincy Street. Witnesses helped identify two people who were seen running from the ambulance.

Mike Johnston, 26, of Rapid City was arrested and charged with driving under the influence and unauthorized use of a motor vehicle. Johnson later posted a $300 bond and was released.

Ambulances may look cool, but they are not easy to drive, according to Maltaverne. Usually, if one is taken, it’s a short trip. The last theft was in 2008, and the vehicle traveled less than a block.

“There are a couple unique features about parking an ambulance that make it very difficult to drive that vehicle off unless you know how to disable certain things,” Maltaverne said.

The ambulance taken Saturday was not damaged, and nothing was taken, Maltaverne said. All drugs are secured in cabinets.

An ambulance is essentially a mobile hospital. Locking the vehicle at the scene is not practical, Maltaverne said. “When you consider we have ambulances running 11,000 calls a year to have this happen, it’s a pretty isolated incident,” Maltaverne said.

Contact Andrea Cook at 394-8423 or

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