Stolen car pursuit ends in Loveland Basin crash | VailDaily.com

Stolen car pursuit ends in Loveland Basin crash

Reid Williams

SUMMIT COUNTY – Two men in a stolen car led police on a chase out of Summit County over Loveland Pass, but they weren’t counting on state patrol troopers waiting for them on the other side.

Driver James Long, of Bennett, was expected to still be in custody at the Summit County Jail Saturday, on what is his 25th birthday, on assorted charges. The passenger, 24-year-old Jessie Morris, was also arrested on numerous outstanding warrants.

A resident of the Sierra Bosque neighborhood north of Silverthorne spotted Long and Morris in a 1997 Ford F-150 truck early Friday morning and called 911 to report the vehicle as suspicious. A Silverthorne police officer answered the call and conducted a traffic stop. The men stopped and then fled.

Running the license plate through the state’s computer, the Silverthorne officer learned the truck was stolen from Brighton. The officer pursued the truck, which hit another vehicle driving down U.S. Highway 6.

The truck continued on through Dillon, and a Dillon police officer radioed in information about the truck’s direction and speed, which was in excess of 80 mph.

The truck raced through Keystone, and state patrol troopers picked up the pursuit over Loveland Pass. Colorado State Patrol Capt. Ron Prater had heard the sirens go by on Highway 6 from his office above FirstBank in Silverthorne, then heard the word “pursuit” on the police radio. He sent two troopers after the truck, then went with another trooper up Interstate 70 through the Eisenhower Tunnel to Loveland Ski Area to, literally, head them off at the pass.

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The troopers closed the road and attempted to stop the truck by setting up “stop sticks,” devices laid on the road to puncture tires. Prater said the devices blew all four tires on the truck, but the driver continued down Highway 6, parallel to I-70. The troopers chased the truck, trying to box it in with their patrol vehicles. Within minutes, the passenger dove out and the driver piloted the truck over an embankment, down 30 feet into a creek. The men then fled on foot, but they didn’t get very far.

“When I heard they were going over (Highway 6), I knew this would terminate without much problem,” Prater said. “I was just hoping they wouldn’t wreck. Fortunately, there were no injuries to anybody.”

In a similar incident, a 14-year-old boy was killed and his mother critically injured in a high-speed police chase in Thornton Thursday.

According to Loveland Ski Area spokesman Kevin Wright, the chase over the pass created a buzz of discussion early Friday morning at the ski area but caused no problems for employees or skiers.

As of Friday afternoon, the pair were still in jail, with bond for Morris set at $17,650, and $14,100 for Long. Officers are seeking charges of eluding an officer, aggravated motor vehicle theft, theft by receiving, failure to report an accident and reckless endangerment. Morris also has three outstanding warrants. Long will face similar charges related to the theft and chase, as well as a probation violation and possession of an illegal weapon.