Cops: Fruita carjacking was ‘not a random act’
A vehicle targeted in a Fruita carjacking, later spurring a manhunt for two men near Mack, had a “substantial” amount of cash hidden in a secret compartment, Fruita police Sgt. John Coughran said Tuesday.
Two people associated with the car claimed they didn’t know anything about the money, which was discovered during a search this past week by Fruita investigators, Coughran said. He declined to answer several related questions about the 2008 Dodge Nitro, which was stolen at gunpoint Feb. 21 at Go-Fer Foods, 106 S. Park Square.
“This was not a random act,” Coughran said during a news conference at the Mesa County Sheriff’s Department.
Watch a video of the press conference below:
The Nitro pulled up to the Go-Fer around 3:40 p.m., occupied by two sisters from California. One of them went inside to pay for fuel, and the other was sitting in the passenger seat when a Hispanic male climbed into the driver’s side and told her to get out while holding a gun to her head, according to an arrest affidavit for 32-year-old German Martinez-Riveria of Los Angeles.
One of two suspects who later fled the Nitro, near the intersection of R and 10 roads, remains at large, and his identity remains unknown to law enforcement, authorities said Tuesday.
Martinez-Riveria was arrested after he was found hiding in a ravine.
“It’s possible he left the area, even as far as Mexico,” Sheriff’s Department spokeswoman Heather Benjamin said of the wanted man.
The handgun the authorities believe was used in the incident has not been recovered, she said.
Neither the suspects nor victims have known ties to Mesa County, Coughran said. He declined comment when asked if the victims and suspects had ties in California.
Roughly 10 minutes before the Go-Fer incident, a woman reported she went inside the Fruita Recreation Center, 324 N. Coulson St., and returned to the parking lot to find her 2004 Chevrolet Silverado pickup was missing, according to Martinez-Riveria’s arrest affidavit.
A witness reported following the Silverado and Nitro west on Interstate 70, and the vehicles turned north on Colorado Highway 139 before pulling off the highway. The pickup was abandoned, and the driver later jumped in the passenger’s seat of the Nitro, the affidavit said.
Authorities eventually located the Nitro near the Mack exit of I-70, following a car chase that hit speeds exceeding 115 mph and ended with the Nitro crashing into a power pole near 10 and R roads.