Highway 82 chase leads to arrest of Carbondale man
A Carbondale man faces a felony eluding charge after allegedly leading the Pitkin County undersheriff on a chase Friday morning.
Undersheriff Ron Ryan arrested Nick Smalling, 35, after spotting his 2001 A6 Audi in the parking area off Southside Drive. The Audi’s license plates had been removed after the chase, Ryan wrote in an incident report.
Smalling, who was released from jail after posting $3,500 bail, said he will fight the eluding charge because he was unaware he was being pursued by a law enforcement officer. Smalling said he thought he was being chased by a road-rager who was upset about his driving.
“He had no flashing lights, I can tell you that much,” Smalling said. “His headlights didn’t flash. Obviously, I was traveling at a high rate of speed, but I wasn’t reckless. I was just trying to put distance between us.”
The arrest came after Ryan had been driving an unmarked patrol vehicle toward Aspen on Highway 82. Ryan initially saw the Audi in the Blue Lake neighborhood area and clocked it going 79 miles per hour in a 55 mph zone, his report says.
The Audi slowed down for a moment, driving parallel with Ryan’s vehicle before passing at a clip of 64 mph, Ryan wrote.
“I began to pace the Audi, but was not able to maintain a constant distance between our vehicles, as the Audi began to maneuver rapidly through traffic,” Ryan wrote.
A cat-and-mouse-like pursuit ensued as Ryan tried to get closer to the Audi, but it accelerated to speeds as fast as 90 mph, Ryan wrote. Ryan elected not to go that fast in his Chevrolet Tahoe SUV, and “I felt the Audi may present a greater danger to the public by going faster if I did so,” he wrote.
When the Audi neared Basalt Avenue, it slowed to about 70 mph, prompting Ryan to activate his emergency lights, he wrote. But Ryan lost sight of the Audi, so he called dispatch for help finding the car.
“Based on the aggressive driving behavior related to my radar activations, the rapid lane changes through traffic and the quick disappearance of the Audi, I believed these were all consistent with intentional attempts to elude me,” Ryan wrote.
Smalling said he never saw any lights activated.
“If he had turned on the lights or sirens, I would have gladly pulled over,” he said.
The undersheriff eventually spotted the Audi parked at a Southside Drive business. The license tags had been removed, and Ryan saw an electric power tool in the Audi’s driver’s seat, the report says.
With the help of Basalt Police Chief Greg Knott, Ryan learned the vehicle belonged to Smalling. At the same time, Ryan had entered the business to look for the Audi owner. The two met and discussed the incident, and Deputy Levi Borst put Smalling in cuffs.
Later, Smalling admitted to Ryan that he’s an aggressive driver but maintained he did not know that Ryan was a member of law enforcement. Ryan questioned Smalling about the license plate’s removal, “and Smalling stated that he did not know, but he did not need any more trouble,” the report says.
Smalling told The Aspen Times that removing the license plates was “poor decision making on my part.”
But he insisted that he thought he was being pursued by someone “who wanted to take matters in their own hands,” which is why he pulled the tags.
Smalling also faces a misdemeanor charge of reckless driving.
“It hasn’t been a good day,” Smalling said.
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