No suspect located in car theft that left Eagle residents in lockdown on Sunday, Monday

Law enforcement conducted a thorough search of the Eby Creek neighborhood after car thief crashed and fled the scene

Just before 4 p.m. on Saturday, May 22, residents in the Eby Creek Mesa neighborhood, Wapiti Road, Camino Dorado and Cactus Lane received a shelter in place order as law enforcement responded initially to reports of an erratic driver in the area.

Around that time, residents began calling into Eagle County Sheriff’s Office with reports of a car driving erratically through the neighborhood, and ultimately that the car crashed in a field after “bushwhacking” and the driver ran into the woods, said Amber Barrett, the public information officer for the Eagle County Sheriff’s Office.

Quickly, the car and its driver were linked to a car theft in West Vail, which occurred around 3 p.m. Sunday. According to Vail Police Sargeant Lachlan Crawford, the stolen vehicle was left unlocked with the keys inside while parked on the street.

According to Barrett, the shelter in place order was put into place because law enforcement didn’t have anybody in custody. The order asked residents to lock their doors, avoid windows, move to an interior room if possible, bring pets indoors and report anything suspicious.

Based on the reports, the suspect was described potentially as a “white male, approx. 20-30 years old, long brown hair, light scruffy facial hair, wearing a baseball cap, black jacket with ‘Hi-Vis’ stripes.”

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During the shelter in place order, units and individuals from multiple local agencies pitched in to follow up on reports from residents and search for the suspect. Barrett said that partners from Vail Mountain Search and Rescue, Vail Fire, Avon Police, Colorado State Patrol, Eagle Police and Vail Police all had a presence on scene.

The Sheriff’s Office also coordinated with the Colorado Department of Transportation to put out messages on the highway, warning drivers to not pick up hitchhikers.

“It was an all hands on deck kind of incident, just to try and capture the car thief and make sure that the community was safe,” Barrett said.

One report came from a family in Eby Creek who came home and saw that their front door was ajar, Barrett said. As a precautionary measure — because there were a few firearms in the residence — the Eagle County Sheriff’s Department special operations unit as well as members of Search and Rescue and Vail Fire were on site for the search. The units deployed a drone above the house as well as a robot within the house to search the residence. The residence was ultimately deemed safe after the search was complete.

The shelter in place order remained in place overnight as law enforcement continued to patrol and monitor the area, but the office received no other calls, Barrett said.

At 7:30 a.m. on Monday, the order was lifted for residents as law enforcement “felt that the person was no longer in the area and that the residents in that area were safe,” she said. “We suspect that the individual has left, or fled, the area.”

As of Tuesday afternoon, Crawford said the Vail Police Department is continuing to work the case and was in the process of following up with witnesses and leads on the car theft itself. According to Crawford, there was another car theft on Monday in Vail and the department is also working to see if the two are possibly connected.

Barrett said the Sheriff’s Office suspects that this incident was either an isolated incident or potentially part of the growing string of car thefts that the department has seen run through the county in the past few years.

“The big message is that everybody, just be diligent, lock your doors. ‘It’s springtime and they’re at it again,’ is sort of our theory,” Barrett said. “With I-70 running right through our valley it’s likely that people are in our towns and looking for a crime of opportunity. Lock your doors, lock your cars, lock your house and just leave your valuables out of sight.”

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