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Speedy Ninja rider's escape foiled; officer injured

Jerry's Towing employee Tony Linehan secures a 1995 Suzuki cycle to his flatbed ahead of hauling the bike to the St. Croix County Sheriff's impound lot in Hudson just before noon Tuesday. <i>Steve Dzubay photo</i>

A man on a Ninja-style motorcycle who allegedly tried to outrun a River Falls patrol officer late Tuesday morning chose the wrong escape route as he crossed paths with a Prescott policeman and a St. Croix County deputy investigator in an unmarked squad before he was caught.

The suspect was ultimately pinched while trying to hide in the bushes across from Kilkarney Hills Golf Club off Radio Road.

James A. Garavalia, 49, last-known address of Lakeland, Minn., was first seen speeding through a 25 mph zone on a 1995 red Suzuki motorcycle on River Falls' south side around 11 a.m.

When the officer flashed emergency lights, the cyclist took off west on Hwy. 29 toward Prescott. The officer gave chase, according to Sgt. Jan Bock of the RFPD.

Radio traffic indicated the officer broke off the pursuit when his speed exceeded 80 mph with the cyclist pulling away.

The River Falls officer continued to follow the motorcycle from a distance, alerting Pierce County and Prescott police to the situation.

When approaching Prescott, the cyclist turned east onto County Road F, then headed north toward Hudson. St. Croix authorities were alerted he was heading their way.

Within minutes, a St. Croix deputy traveling west on County Road MM in an unmarked squad car, met the cyclist traveling at "Mach 1" speed, the deputy quipped.

The officer turned around and caught sight of the motorcycle in time to see it veer into a driveway near the WEVR radio broadcast tower.

The deputy tried to block the cycle's exit with his car. When the man again attempted to flee, the deputy -- now on foot -- pushed him over and in the ensuing scuffle, sustained a knee injury before the man was subdued, according to Sheriff John Shilts. Shilts declined to identify the injured officer.

Suspect Garavalia, who has a lengthy court record, was taken to River Falls Area Hospital after complaining of feeling light-headed and faint.

Once medically cleared, he was transported to the St. Croix County Jail where he also had to answer to an outstanding warrant as well as numerous citations from River Falls police and possibly a possible felony charge as a result of the officer's injury, said Bock.

The motorcycle, registered to someone else, was impounded by deputies.

When it comes to attempting to stop speeding motorcycles, police squads frequently lose the chase. But luck didn't appear to be on Garavalia's side Tuesday.

"Some days, you're just having a bad day," Shilts chuckled.

Steve Dzubay

Steve Dzubay has been publisher at the River Falls Journal and Hudson Star Observer from 1995-2016. He holds a bachelors degree in journalism from the University of Minnesota. He previously worked as a reporter-photographer at small daily newspapers in Minnesota and is past editor of the Pierce County Herald and River Falls Journal.