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Suspect arrested after allegedly stealing trolley, taking joy ride that ended near Ignacio

Durango man arrested after vehicle tires damaged by spike strips
A Durango Transit bus was was stolen from the city’s Transit Center and crashed near Ignacio on Friday sits Saturday in the city maintenance lot in Bodo Park. The suspect was arrested and taken into custody. (Jerry McBride/Durango Herald)

A Durango man was arrested Friday evening after he allegedly stole a Durango Transit bus, crashed it on Camino del Rio and fled the scene in the vehicle, causing multiple law enforcement agencies to give chase in a pursuit that ended in Ignacio.

Friday afternoon, Alexander Hayes reportedly snuck into the Durango Transit Center and onto a Durango Transit bus left unattended by a driver who was on break and drove the vehicle off the property, Bob Brammer, Durango police chief, said on Saturday.

Hayes is in the custody, he said. No injuries were reported.

Shortly afterward, the suspect crashed on Camino del Rio and U.S. Highway 160 west. A Colorado Parks and Wildlife officer witnessed the accident and attempted to stop the Durango Transit bus, which prompted the suspect to speed away, he said.

The Durango Police Department received a call about the crash in the 6 p.m. hour and dispatched officers to the scene. DPD officers also attempted to stop the Transit bus without success, he said. At that point, the suspect was “driving really recklessly and started to pick up speed.”

A Durango Transit bus that was stolen and crashed near Ignacio on Friday sits Saturday in the city maintenance lot in Bodo Park. (Jerry McBride/Durango Herald)

“We were really worried about the endangerment of the rest of the drivers on the roadway. So the supervisor wisely chose to go ahead and share the information (with) other units out to the county and the state and discontinue our portion of that (chase),” he said.

DPD officers continued to follow the suspect in the bus at a distance to monitor the situation, he said.

The suspect crashed the bus again on Highway 172, but the vehicle was still running and he took off again. A La Plata County Sheriff’s deputy pursued the suspect and made his or her own attempt to stop the vehicle, again without success, he said.

A Southern Ute Police Department officer was able to set a spike strips on Highway 172 ahead of the suspect, who drove over it and damaged the bus’ tires as it drove toward Ignacio. The tires slowly deflated and eventually the suspect pulled out and continued his escape attempt on foot, he said.

After a short foot chase, Hayes was caught and apprehended, Brammer said.

“Thank God nobody was hurt,” Brammer said. “There was some property damage along the way. It was pretty chaotic.”

He said the incident response was a great coordinated effort between multiple agencies, including DPD, La Plata County Sheriff’s Office, Ignacio Police Department and even CPW.

The suspect reached speeds over 70 mph, he said.

Hayes faces a litany of charges, including aggravated motor vehicle theft, felony eluding and a potential DUI, among other charges, he said.

The joy ride wasn’t the suspect’s first rodeo. Brammer said since January, DPD have contacted Hayes 40 times for various possible offenses.

A Durango man who stole a Durango Transit bus on Friday took the vehicle for a joy ride toward Ignacio, prompting responses from Durango Police Department, La Plata County Sheriff’s Office and Ignacio Police Department. The suspect crashed the vehicle twice, once in Durango and once in the county, before its tires were damaged by a spike strips laid by an Ignacio officer. (Jerry McBride/Durango Herald)

“The police are working desperately with other members of our criminal justice system and community in order to intervene early (with) people that have problematic behaviors,” he said. “And this was another case of somebody that had a lot of police intervention on the front end. But, you know, as this person moves through the system, that’s where somebody can, really, truly be affected and get some treatment that they need.”

Brammer said the suspect’s motivation for stealing the Transit bus isn’t clear at this time, but he expects more details to become clear over the course of the police investigation. DPD will lead the investigation because the inciting incident occurred in city limits.

He said it was safer for DPD to disengage, alert other law enforcement agencies and give them time to set up spike strips. It’s a decision officers have to weigh heavily because suspects fleeing in vehicles rarely stop of their own accord and chases often end in crashes.

“Either the suspect’s hurt or killed or, you know, an innocent is hurt or killed or police officers are killed,” he said. “There’s a lot of factors that are involved there. And the last thing you want to do is be part of hurting somebody when we could have avoided that.”

Tom Sluis, city spokesman, relayed a written statement from Sarah Hill, transportation director, that says the stolen Transit bus is out of service and had to be towed back to Durango. Coincidentally, it had reached the end of its useful life expectancy and a replacement vehicle was delivered to the city last week.