Police kill carjack suspect
A man suspected by authorities of carjacking a woman following an attempted sexual assault at a Lakewood parking lot Tuesday night was shot and killed by police in Mesa County after a pursuit on Interstate 70, closing westbound traffic near the Colorado-Utah line most of Wednesday.
“He emerged from his vehicle and pointed a gun at officers, who stopped the threat,” Grand Junction police spokeswoman Kate Porras initially said Wednesday.
Porras later issued a press release saying the man, “pointed what is believed to be a gun” at officers and deputies.
Porras declined comment when asked to clarify those statements.
The slain man’s identity wasn’t released by authorities.
A radio bulletin to local law enforcement around 6:50 a.m. Wednesday announced a suspect and vehicle description from the Lakewood incident. The bulletin indicated the man may be armed, Porras said.
In police radio traffic reviewed by The Daily Sentinel, the bulletin included information that Lakewood police had “pinged” the suspect’s cellphone, a technique used by police to narrow a suspect’s location based on cellphone towers. It placed him in the Grand Junction area.
The bulletin advised officers to use “extreme caution” if they contacted the suspect, who was believed to be driving a dark blue Ford F250 pickup “with large wheels.”
Lakewood police spokesman Steve Davis said a woman was approached around 9 p.m. Tuesday by a stranger in the parking lot of a Target store, 14500 W. Colfax Ave., as she was loading groceries into her pickup truck.
“She’d become uncomfortable with whatever he had to say, and continued loading her groceries into her vehicle,” he said.
With that, the man reportedly forced her inside the pickup.
Davis said there was evidence at the scene the man tried to sexually assault her, but Davis declined to elaborate. Several bystanders reported hearing the woman screaming, while at least one person took action, he said.
“One man even pulls his car up to the (woman’s) truck and turns on his high-beam headlights to shine inside,” Davis said.
The woman escaped, ran back inside the store and called 911. The suspect fled in her pickup.
Davis said officers developed a possible name for the suspect partially based on a description from the victim. While declining to name the suspect, Davis said the man has an extensive criminal record.
A pickup truck matching the “attempt to locate” bulletin was spotted by a Mesa County Sheriff’s investigator at West Gate Inn, 2210 U.S. Highway 6&50, Porras said. The pickup sped away west on I-70 and several agencies engaged in a high-speed pursuit, she said.
Porras said officers used stop sticks — gear designed to flatten tires — several times along I-70 but the suspect was able to avoid them. A Colorado State Patrol trooper ended up forcing the truck off the interstate around mile post 1.
Porras said the man allegedly ignored multiple commands to come out of the pickup truck before he exited the truck and allegedly pointed a gun at officers.
Multiple officers fired, killing the man.
ON PAID LEAVE
Porras said she couldn’t confirm how many officers were on paid leave as a result of the shooting and subsequent investigation, or which agency they work for. Grand Junction police, Mesa County Sheriff’s Department, Fruita police, the Colorado State Patrol and SWAT personnel all converged on the area.
Officers were in verbal contact with the suspect as late as 8:30 a.m., Sheriff’s Department spokeswoman Heather Benjamin said.
According to radio traffic reviewed by The Daily Sentinel, the initial “attempt to locate” bulletin was aired at approximately 6:50 a.m., while several officers from the Grand Junction Police Department and Mesa County Sheriff’s Department within minutes are heard responding to “West Gate.”
The next significant activity isn’t heard for nearly a full hour.
At about 7:38 a.m. Lower Valley firefighters are called to stage for law enforcement “in pursuit of a fleeing vehicle.” Troopers shortly after are heard noting speeds around 80 mph.
Shots fired are called by an unknown officer just before 9 a.m.
“Shots fired ... CSP not involved,” a presumed trooper was heard transmitting around the same time.