Fugitive in custody after high-speed chase through Glenwood
June 28, 2011
GLENWOOD SPRINGS – Police captured a fugitive sought by the U.S. Marshals Service on Thursday morning after a high-speed auto chase through Glenwood Springs and a foot chase down a steep embankment to the Roaring Fork River.
A Glenwood Springs canine officer, Kane, tracked the fugitive to his final hiding spot along the river at the start of the dog’s first day on the job, said Police Chief Terry Wilson.
The incident also led to the arrest of the fugitive’s sister on suspicion of obstructing police and two other men at her home, who were wanted on warrants.
Efforts to capture Thomas Armijo, 26, whose last address was a halfway house in Denver, began on the evening of Wednesday, June 22, Wilson said.
Armijo was wanted for a federal probation violation for returning drunk to a halfway house, where he had been placed on probation after serving time in federal prison on a narcotics conviction. He was also being sought on a warrant from Thornton for assault, domestic violence and child abuse, Wilson said.
The U.S. Marshals office in Denver contacted Glenwood Springs police around 7 p.m. Wednesday to say Armijo was believed to be hiding out at his sister’s home at 1102 Valley View Road.
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Valley View Road is in the Glenwood Park subdivision in south Glenwood, near Sopris Elementary School.
Officers went to the home at 10 p.m. for a “knock and talk,” Wilson said, advising the residents of the home that police were looking for Armijo and noting the consequences of harboring a fugitive.
People in the home told the officers that Armijo had returned to Denver.
An agent with the U.S. Marshals Service returned with police to the home at 5 the next morning for another knock and talk. Armijo was reportedly not there, but officers discovered that two other men in the house, Nicolas Velazquez-Torres, 31, and Francisco Garcia-Moreno, 28, both of Glenwood Springs, were being sought on arrest warrants. They were arrested and taken to the county jail.
At 6 a.m., night-shift and day-shift officers with the Glenwood Springs Police Department met for their morning shift-change briefing, and a U.S. Marshal showed the oncoming day shift officers photographs of Armijo and his vehicle.
A day shift officer quickly said he has just seen the vehicle while making a quick spin through town.
“At that point, both shifts went barreling back out on the streets, and we spotted the vehicle in the 27th and Midland roundabout,” Wilson said. Officers tried to pull the vehicle over, but Armijo sped up and led police on a chase from 27th to South Glen Avenue, onto Blake Avenue, and then north down Grand Avenue and over the Grand Avenue Bridge to Sixth Street.
Officers backed off from the chase on Grand Avenue, following a policy to avoid high-speed auto chases in town. Another officer was positioned along I-70, and kept Armijo’s van in sight while it headed west on Highway 6 to West Glenwood.
At West Glenwood, the van sped through the north and south roundabouts and drove onto West Midland Avenue, driving under the railroad underpass in the oncoming traffic lane and nearly hitting a Glenwood Springs city employee headed to a job site.
At that point, a Garfield County sheriff’s deputy tried the stop the vehicle near the Glenwood Meadows entrance. Instead, the van accelerated to about 80 mph, Wilson said, and headed all the way south on Midland Avenue back to Glenwood Park.
Again, officers backed off the chase to avoid causing an accident.
Armijo drove the van to his sister’s home, jumped out and, in his confusion, tried to enter the house next door. When that failed, he fled down the block, cut between some houses and escaped down the very steep embankment to the Roaring Fork River.
When officers arrived moments later, neighbors pointed to his escape route. Meanwhile, Armijo’s sister, Vanessa, 23, was reportedly calling out to police, “Don’t shoot my brother,” while also yelling to her brother, “Thomas, run, the police are here.”
Wilson said he asked Vanessa Armijo to tell her brother to surrender and to back away from officers. She refused, and was placed in handcuffs. She has been charged on suspicion of interfering with an arrest and complicity with a fugitive.
Meanwhile, two police officers and the canine officer headed down the steep embankment in search of Armijo. Kane tracked the scent and found Armijo some distance upstream, hiding in a clump of scrub oak. Because Armijo did not move from the spot, Wilson said, Kane stood guard at the site but did not attack the man.
“The dog held him there until the officers arrived,” Wilson said.
Armijo surrendered and climbed back up the embankment with the officers, where he was immediately placed under arrest.
Wilson noted that Glenwood Springs police have added about a dozen charges to Armijo’s warrant related to driving while intoxicated, reckless and dangerous driving, speeding and eluding police at high speeds.
In spite of the dangerous driving through town and back again, no collisions occurred, Wilson said.
“I think because this happened so early in the morning is why we got out of this with no accident,” he said.