Police arrest alleged joy-rider
ASPEN Aspen Police arrested a 23-year-old Spanish man Saturday after he allegedly stole a pickup truck and crashed in a ditch.Rodrigo Valdez Alonso, originally from Spain, faces charges of theft, reckless driving, hit and run and driving without a license. Alonso moved from Peru to Aspen in January and is an employee-in-training at the St. Regis Hotel.”It was surreal,” said Brad Randel, owner of the Dodge Ram 2500 that ended up in a ditch Saturday.Randel had spent the morning with his kids at an Aspen Valley Ski and Snowboard event at Aspen Highlands. And when he ducked inside a condo to change his boots shortly after 1 p.m., he came out and his pickup was gone.”I thought somebody was playing a joke on me,” Randel said.Police allege Alonso jumped in the truck, which sat idling in a no parking zone in front of a condominium on Boomerang Road near Aspen Highlands, then drove along Maroon Creek Road But Alonso lost control of the vehicle just past the entrance to Aspen High School, police said. The truck spun and came to rest on the driver’s side.Kody Martin, a security guard finishing his Saturday shift, pulled over on Maroon Creek Road when he saw Alonso trapped in the truck.”I asked if he was OK,” Martin said when he approached, but Alonso, who was standing up inside the truck cab, didn’t respond. Martin climbed on top of the truck to open the door, but the truck was locked, and Alonso wouldn’t unlock the vehicle, Martin said.”It’s like he didn’t understand me,” Martin said. “The guy is not right in the head.”But when Martin started prying at the door, Alonso unlocked the truck and Martin helped him out.”He kept saying, ‘I was just playing around,'” Martin said of the stunned driver. “There was no way he could have gotten out without help.”Angela Baldwin, an official with the Aspen parking authority, drove by after the accident and, hearing over her radio that help was on the way, decided to stop and see what she could do.Baldwin gave Alonso her coat and stood with him for a few minutes.But when a Roaring Fork Transit Authority bus passed, a stunned Alonso flagged it down and boarded, Baldwin said.Baldwin warned him not to get on the bus and told the bus driver Alonso had been involved in the accident.”But he just kept getting on the bus,” Baldwin said. The bus driver pulled ahead to get out of traffic and stopped, and Alonso got off, Baldwin said.”I figured he was in shock… Or guilty of something,” Baldwin said.”It’s my fault. I left the keys in it and running in a no parking zone,” Randel said, but added it is not uncommon for people to leave vehicles in the spot to unload. And Randel said he only left the truck for a few minutes so he could drop off a parking pass and change. Randel said he kept the truck in sight through a window most of the time so he wouldn’t get a ticket, and only stepped away for a moment and the truck was gone.”It is what it is,” Randel said of the damages to his vehicle, which he uses to run a caretaking and home maintenance business in Aspen.Randel later righted the truck with a winch and was able to drive away despite a broken door and dents.”I’m just glad he’s not hurt… and I’m glad he didn’t hit anyone,” Randel said.Randel added that the curve where Alonso lost control is dangerous, especially because of the bus stop on its outside edge, and he hopes the accident will make local officials take notice.Aspen Police handcuffed Alonso and took him to the Pitkin County Jail. Officials are conducting an investigation, but police found no evidence of alcohol or drugs. A counselor from Aspen Mental Health evaluated Alonso, and he will be held in jail pending a bond yet to be determined.Charles Agar’s e-mail address is firstname.lastname@example.org.
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