CANYONVILLE, ORE. - A Bellingham semi truck driver made up a story about being taken hostage by two gunmen in Oregon before troopers arrested him on drunk driving charges Wednesday afternoon, June 13.
Thomas James Conner, 33, of Bellingham called his trucking company, Anker Trucking, at 2:30 p.m. to report a pair of Asian men with automatic weapons were trying to steal his load of frozen assorted berries.
"He was screaming for help," said Dave Anker, co-owner of the trucking company, based in Sumas. "We thought he was tied up in the back of the truck."
Oregon troopers found Conner's semi parked along the southbound entrance ramp of the interstate, near the Seven Feathers Casino in Canyonville. The semi's emergency lights were flashing as if it were in distress, said Oregon State Police Lt. Doug Ladd.
Then the troopers spotted Conner and another man stumbling along a nearby sidewalk.
"They were - well, fill in the word for 'intoxicated,'" Ladd said.
An open Pepsi can was sitting in the cab of the truck. The can contained the last of a whiskey and cola cocktail, Ladd said, and an empty bottle of whiskey was in a ditch beside the truck.
Conner's blood alcohol level was 0.17 - more than four times the legal limit for commercial drivers in both Oregon and Washington, Ladd said.
Conner was booked into Douglas County Jail in lieu of $17,500 bail. He's under investigation for driving under the influence, initiating a false report, reckless endangerment and having an open container of alcohol.
The other man in the truck was a "buddy" who had been riding with Conner, Ladd said, so the driver was also cited for having an unauthorized passenger. The passenger was not charged with a crime.
On Thursday, Conner called Anker from an Oregon courtroom and said he had hallucinated the hostage situation.
Conner has an extensive criminal history, including an eight-year prison sentence for three counts of robbery in Seattle.
The company has a zero-tolerance policy for drinking and driving. It goes without saying, Anker said, that Conner has lost his job.