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Police chase car-theft suspects from Silverton to Purgatory

Driver reached speeds of 90 mph, surrenders after foot pursuit

A man and a woman were in La Plata County Jail on Thursday after leading police on a high-speed chase that started Wednesday night in Silverton and reached speeds of 90 mph on U.S. Highway 550.

The Silverton Standard & the Miner identified the suspects as Joshua Critchfield, 22, and Sage Cornell, 28, both from Grand Junction.

The San Juan County Sheriff’s Office initially responded to reports of a broken-down vehicle on Highway 550 south of Silverton, which turned out to be stolen, Sheriff Bruce Conrad said.

He said officers received a second call about a different stolen vehicle shortly after 7 p.m.

“We got a call from the owner of the vehicle reporting it as missing,” Conrad said. “The owner left the vehicle running to get warm. This was a theft of opportunity.”

The pursuit started when an off-duty officer spotted the second vehicle, a late-model Subaru Forester, in downtown Silverton.

Conrad said the driver led deputies on a “high-speed, dangerous pursuit” that extended 21 miles south on U.S. Highway 550.

“The suspect was trying to run oncoming cars off the road and was throwing things out of the vehicle,” he said.

The driver turned off the vehicle’s lights several times and drove headlong into oncoming traffic in an attempt to elude officers, forcing other vehicles off the road, Conrad said.

Officers deployed spike strips on the road near Needles Country Store, but the driver turned around before reaching them, he said.

Scanner traffic said other cars may have accidentally hit the spike strips, but Conrad said he could not confirm whether that happened.

The Sheriff’s Office, assisted by the La Plata County Sheriff’s Office and Colorado State Patrol, chased the driver into Purgatory Resort, where he and a passenger fled on foot into the trees.

Conrad said officers, with the help of a Purgatory security guard, apprehended the suspects around 10 p.m. on a steep grade after following their tracks in the snow.

“We were able to catch the suspects after a short foot pursuit,” he said “They reached a dead-end on the trail.”

In all, the suspects stole two vehicles. Conrad said they are facing several charges, including aggravated motor-vehicle theft, reckless endangerment and felony eluding.

He said no one was injured during the pursuit, and the stolen vehicle was “fairly unscathed.”


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