A serious incident earlier this week has landed an accused serial car thief behind bars, and has North Cowichan/Duncan RCMP asking drivers to avoid the urge to follow a long-standing custom among motorists.

Police say it all started around 10:30 Wednesday night. RCMP were called out to the 7-11 on Lakes Road in Duncan, where a man reportedly threatened and assaulted an employee.

The suspect drove off in a car that matched one reported stolen earlier in the month. RCMP spotted the car headed north on the Trans Canada, and set up a roadblock road block near Chemainus.

But as the car got near it veered to the left, into a gas station, where the driver rammed a police car and sped off down a dead end road. RCMP say at one point the car slowed down and a passenger jumped out. The driver kept going until he hit a fence at the end of the road.

RCMP arrested 31 year old Peter Charles Leno of Victoria, who’s wanted across Vancouver Island.

It turns out the person who jumped was a hitchhiker. “Thankfully, the hitchhiker was able to get out uninjured, but they were shaken up” says Cpl. Jon Stuart.

But there’s a bit more to the story. In a release issued today, Sgt, Chris Swain says the suspect made the sudden turn to avoid the road block because south bound drivers had flashed their lights to warn of a roadside check ahead.

The release goes on to say, “The officers serving your community at North Cowichan/Duncan Detachment and across the province continue, even during the holiday season, to take dangerous criminals off of our streets in the safest way possible. We would appreciate your assistance with this. One could argue that the person flicking their high beams couldn’t have known the history of the prolific offender they were warning. What they should know is that warning possible thieves and drunk drivers with whom they are sharing the road is in fact putting themselves, their families, and others at risk.”

Leno is charged with assault, making threats, auto theft, possession of stolen property, evading police and two counts of mischief.