A Billings man recently released after spending more than a year in jail was back behind bars Thursday after he allegedly stole two pickups.
Officer Michael Gilluly said a woman at the Wild West Saloon, 1516 Fourth Ave. N., reported her pickup stolen about 4:30 p.m. The woman told Gilluly she had spoken with the suspected thief earlier in the day when he was driving a second pickup, which was in the parking lot. Gilluly recognized that pickup as one that was reported stolen earlier. Both trucks were mid-1970s Chevrolets, he said.
When the second stolen pickup's description and license plate was announced by the Billings Dispatch Center, the pickup pulled out in front of Lt. Tim O'Connell, who was driving an unmarked car near downtown. O'Connell radioed that he was following the stolen pickup, which Gilluly said was traveling fast, and the driver, later identified as Leon Harlson, ran stop signs. Soon officer Tim Hawkins, who was in a patrol car, tried to stop the truck.
Harlson, 32, is accused of leading police on a short pursuit to the 700 block of Howard Avenue, where he jumped out of the pickup and ran into a residence. Officer Brian Korell and his police dog arrived, and Harlson came out and was arrested after officers told him that they would send the dog into the house.
Harlson was held without bond Thursday in Yellowstone County Detention Facility on suspicion of two counts of felony theft and also felony criminal endangerment in connection with the chase. He was also being held on misdemeanor counts of reckless driving, driving under the influence, no driver's license and no proof of vehicle insurance.
Harlson was recently released from jail after District Court Judge Susan Watters sentenced him last June to three consecutive six-month sentences. He had pleaded guilty to misdemeanor charges of assault, criminal mischief and privacy in communications. Harlson was given credit for the eight months he had been in jail before the sentencing.
He was charged in May 2001 after his estranged wife said he abducted her. She left notes asking for help at a bar and a gas station during the incident. Sheriff's deputies found knives embedded in walls in the couple's previous home which had been ransacked. While he was in jail before sentencing, Harlson called a friend and made threatening statements against Harlson's wife, prosecutors said.