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Suspect ID'd in car chase

Fla. man, niece reportedly killed themselves as chase ended

A Florida man wanted in connection with the disappearance of his niece has been identified as the driver who died after a high-speed pursuit on Monday.

Lt. Kyle Lincoln, of the San Juan County Sheriff's Office in Aztec, said Benjamin J. Edwards, III, 31, of St. Augustine, Florida, was the driver of the vehicle. He was a person of interest in the theft of a firearm and the disappearance of his 14-year-old niece, also of St. Augustine.

The girl was a passenger in Edwards' car during the chase.

A medical investigator at the scene in Shiprock, where the near 45-minute pursuit ended, found that both subjects appeared to have died from self-inflicted gunshots fired into their mouths, Lincoln said.

"No officers from any involved jurisdictions fired upon the vehicle, nor were any civilians or officers injured in the pursuit or shootings," Lincoln said.

Montezuma County Undersheriff Jim Kingery said the high-speed pursuit originated in Cortez just after 11 a.m. Monday after a "gas skip" at the Conoco Convenience Store at 110 N. Broadway.

Montezuma County Sheriff's Deputy Jason Williams pursued the suspects, who were driving a Toyota 4Runner, south along U.S. Highway 491, at speeds nearing 100 mph. Williams reported that the fleeing suspects shot several bursts of gunfire at him, striking his patrol vehicle at least once.

The deputy wasn't injured.

After the suspects entered New Mexico, about 30 miles south of Cortez, officers from the New Mexico State Patrol, Navajo Nation and Bureau of Indian Affairs joined the pursuit.

The suspects also fired rounds at officers with the Shiprock Police Department, Lincoln said. The San Juan County Sheriff's Office served as the lead agency in the investigation, in part because both suspects were non-Native Americans.

According to Lincoln, Edwards, the driver of the fleeing Toyota 4Runner, was the apparent shooter during the pursuit.