Local motorcyclist takes page from Steve McQueen in 'The Great Escape'--but doesn't get away

Anthony Oetken
Anthony Oetken

In a scene like that with Steve McQueen in “The Great Escape,” Anthony Oetken faces felony evading charges for a motorcycle pursuit he was involved in Sunday night.

Deputy Chris Sziraki was clearing another call in the Beachwood area just before 9:30 p.m. when he heard a motorcycle approaching with a loud muffler. The motorcycle passed him without a headlight on. The driver, Oetken, 44, from Merced, also wasn’t wearing a helmet, according to Deputy Tom MacKenzie.

When Sziraki tried to stop the bike, Oetken took off and began running stop signs, MacKenzie said. The motorcyclist was almost hit by an oncoming car when he made a turn onto Beachwood Drive.

Oetken drove through parking lots and residential streets, running stop signs at speeds of 40 to 45 mph, according to authorities. He then entered a dirt field and went about 200 yards before trying to gain access to a canal bank.

Oetken apparently didn't see a barbed wire fence strung along the base of the canal bank which stopped his motorcycle — but not him. Unlike McQueen in the movie, who was tangled in German barbed wire after he couldn’t jump a barrier, Oetken was thrown from his bike. Then he was taken into custody for felony evading. In the film, McQueen is also captured.

Oetken said he ran because he was trying to sell the bike and needed the money to make his rent payment and didn't want to get it stored, according to MacKenzie.

Oetken was taken to Mercy Medical Center to be treated for minor wounds received during the crash. Charges will be filed with the District Attorney's Office, but Oetken wasn’t booked immediately because of medical treatment,The motorcycle was towed.