Naked escape runs cold
A naked Olivehurst man who spent six hours in the chilly waters of Carquinez Strait trying to elude authorities was in intensive care Friday in a Richmond hospital.
Gary Hatfield's strange odyssey started about 10 a.m. Thursday when he walked away from a vehicle that had just crashed down an embankment in the Bay Area city of Crockett.
“He shed his clothing sometime before entering the water,” California Highway Patrol Officer Scott Yox said Friday.
Flames engulfed the vehicle, “so it looked like it had been set on fire,” Yox said.
Unaware that Hatfield had just set a car ablaze, a boater offered him a lift as he floated on debris. Hatfield declined and told the boater he had a knife. Hatfield was also spotted with a crowbar, Yox said.
Hatfield, 36, reportedly swam back to shore in the 50-degree water and attempted to steal a boat from a C&H Sugar Co. factory near the water. He failed, then crawled under the pier and back into the water.
Hatfield rode the current several hundred yards from C&H to pilings that secure a barrier to prevent boats from hitting Al Zampa Memorial Bridge's anchorage.
The elusive suspect hid between the water and the base of the barrier by holding onto the barnacle-covered pilings.
“His hands were pretty torn up because of the piling's barnacles,” Yox said.
Firefighters even tried spraying Hatfield with a fire hose in an attempt to force him out of hiding. The suspect protected himself from the spray's power by using pilings as shields.
Several agencies tried to lure Hatfield out of the water: CHP, Contra Costa Sheriff's Department, Vallejo and Carquinez fire departments and the East Bay Regional Park District police.
Hatfield's parents also were summoned to the scene, Yox said.
They told authorities their son has in the past avoided them by staying in a lake for six hours and torching a car. They said he has bipolar disorder and a history of drug use.
The Coast Guard finally pulled a purplish Hatfield from the water at 4:30 p.m.
Authorities have yet to question Hatfield, who is in intensive care at Doctors Hospital in Richmond. He had hypothermia.
Hatfield will be taken to jail after he is released from the hospital. Authorities could charge him with arson and evasion.
Hatfield may avoid car theft charges because the car's owners are rumored to be related to him, Yox said. When notified, the owners said they did not know where their car was, but they have yet to report it as stolen.
Appeal-Democrat reporter Eve Hightower can be reached at 749-4724. You may e-mail her at firstname.lastname@example.org.