FARGO - The body of a man who police say jumped into the Red River while fleeing an officer this morning was recovered just before 7 a.m. from the river just east of Fargo City Hall.
Lt. Jeff Skuza said an officer was checking on a report of a suspicious person near the Petro Serve USA gas station on Second Street North between First and NP avenues at about 4:20 a.m. when the man ran from the officer.
"He was found with a couple of bicycles and bolt cutters, and we'd been investigating a string of bike thefts where locks were cut, so we were investigating possibly he could have been involved in that, but he fled before we could even identify him," Skuza said.
The officer chased the man on foot onto the First Avenue North bridge. The man jumped the bridge railing onto the ground below and ran along the riverbank to the south, then jumped into the river to try to swim across to Moorhead, Skuza said.
The man got about halfway through the channel and started to founder. Moorhead police officers threw a life preserver to him, which Skuza said he should have been able to reach but he appeared to be getting lethargic and possibly hypothermic.
Officers kept him in sight and tried to coax him back to the riverbank, but he eventually went under the water north of the bridge, Skuza said.
A Valley Water Rescue dive team conducted a grid search of the river and recovered the man's body about 7 a.m. His identity wasn't known. A coroner was en route to the scene, Skuza said at about 7:15 a.m.
Skuza said it's not uncommon for suspects to try to swim the river to elude police, but he added, "This is a bad time of the year to try that." The water temperature in the river was 44 degrees, he said.
Valley Water Rescue President Pete Fendt said the team had five divers dressed to search in 20-minute shifts. The second diver recovered the body in about 10 to 12 feet of water about a third of the way into the channel from the Fargo side, he said.
A sonar unit purchased by Valley Water Rescue in December captured an image of what appeared to be the man's body, and the team knew his last known location before going underwater, both of which made it easier to figure out where to search, Fendt said.
The Moorhead and Fargo fire departments each had two boats in the water during the search, as well. F-M Ambulance also responded to the scene.