Armed homeowner thwarts attempt to take his firetruck

Michael Chavez mug

A Montrose man told officers he was trying to get out of the cold when he climbed into a privately owned firetruck, keys at the ready,  and tried to start it early Monday.

Michael A. Chavez, 57, was detained at gunpoint by the owner of the truck, 38-year-old Lawerence Sanderson, before Montrose police arrived on scene in the 1000 block of South Park Drive around 12:38 a.m. Monday.

Montrose police Cmdr. Gene Lillard said the landlord of the property ran to Sanderson’s nearby home, saying someone was attempting to steal the vehicle.

Lillard said the truck had been parked in a garage with its front end facing out, the garage door open. Keys had been left inside, and the truck’s doors were unlocked.

Chavez started the vehicle, slipped it into reverse and slammed the back wall of the garage, knocking out several 2-by-4 studs in the wall, causing an estimated $300 damage, Lillard said.

Sanderson said he believes the truck stalled after knocking the wall, and Chavez was trying to start the engine again when he ran up and yelled through the passenger window for Chavez to get out.

“Am I under arrest?” Chavez later asked, according to Lillard.

“Yes, you are,” Sanderson replied.

When he realized that Sanderson wasn’t a law enforcement officer, Chavez started advancing toward Sanderson despite a 9 mm handgun trained on Chavez’s chest, according to Sanderson. The uneasy dance went on some 80 feet into a roadway until Chavez decided to lie on the ground upon commands.

“(Sanderson) holstered his gun as soon as our guys got there,” Lillard said.

The vehicle, with its fire hoses and other firefighting equipment, is contracted by Sanderson to various federal wildland fire agencies and isn’t affiliated with the Montrose Fire Department.

Chavez was booked into Montrose County Jail on suspicion of driving under the influence, burglary, criminal mischief, possession of drug paraphernalia, careless driving and being an intoxicated pedestrian in the roadway

Sanderson, meanwhile, said he holds no ill will against Chavez, whom Sanderson said he frequently has seen around the neighborhood.

“He said he’d been kicked out of his sister’s house for drinking,” Sanderson said. “Nobody got hurt, so the rest didn’t matter.”

Sanderson said he will start locking the doors on his truck and keep the keys with him.


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