An early-morning traffic stop turned into a foot chase through the desert that involved four law enforcement agencies and a little help from above.
At 5:20 a.m. on Friday, July 7, Sedona police officer Jon Reed came upon a pair of white work trucks at the intersection of State Route 89A and Oak Creek Valley Road — each with two male passengers.
“With the time being approximately 5:20 a.m. and school out for summer, it was suspicious to me for the teenagers to be driving government-registered trucks,” Reed wrote in his report.
Reed pulled behind the two trucks and called in their license plates. It was then that one of the trucks pulled over suddenly to the left shoulder of the road. It started smoking significantly from the engine compartment, and skidded to a stop.
The second truck pulled over behind it briefly. As Reed pulled over behind the trucks the smoke from the first truck was so significant it covered both lanes of traffic and made visibility difficult.
“I turned on my emergency lights and started to radio my location to Sedona PD dispatch when the Hispanic males in the second truck looked back, and the truck fled northbound when they saw me,” he wrote.
He advised dispatch that he was staying with the vehicle that had broken down. A male exited the truck and fled on foot across the median and across the southbound lanes of the highway into the desert. The passenger fled also, trailing just behind the driver. Reed yelled, “Stop, police” but the subjects looked back and kept running away.
Reed advised dispatch that he believed the two vehicles were stolen, which was later confirmed by Cottonwood police. The two had been reported stolen from Mingus Union High School. A second officer arrived on scene at which point the two attempted to catch the suspects fleeing.
They could see the suspects moving through the desert in the direction of Bill Gray Road. But they soon lost sight of them.
“Eventually I came across a large ravine which had two sets of fresh footprints headed south,” Reed wrote. “I continued to give location updates to YCSO and Cottonwood PD [Department of Public Safety later arrived] who were assisting in the search.”
Through a coordinated effort, the officers were able to form a perimeter in the area. And that’s when officers received a little help from above. Dispatch informed them that a tour from Northern Lights Balloon Expeditions was in the area and was preparing to land.
In a phone interview with pilot Blair Preston, he said he had 10 passengers for the early-morning flight when he saw one, then several law enforcement vehicles in the area in which they hoped to land.
“One of my passengers said they saw a bush move so we dropped down and then the first guy started running up the ravine and then the second one starting running as well,” he said. “I dropped down more and yelled to the officers that they were about 150 yards ahead. Shortly after that we heard, ‘Get on the ground. Get on the ground’ and they got them.”
Two males, ages 15 and 17, were taken into custody. Preston said he was happy to help in the effort and said his passengers enjoyed it as well.
“Several said it was the most exciting thing they had ever done,” he said. “They go for a balloon ride and end up helping run down criminals.”
During the late evening of July 7, the second truck was located abandoned in an apartment complex parking lot near the Cottonwood Police Department after two observant dispatchers on break saw the truck and believed it matched the description.
On the morning of July 8, the third suspect, a 15-year-old, was apprehended in the 100 block of South 10th Street in Cottonwood. During the evening hours of July 9, deputies from the Camp Verde Marshal’s Office located and arrested the fourth suspect, 18-year-old Anthony Vasquez, and turned him over to Cottonwood police.