Cops end search for fugitive
Residents advised to keep watch
Law enforcement officials Tuesday afternoon called off a multi-agency search for a fugitive they say was involved in a car theft and armed carjacking in Fruita the day before.
The Mesa County Sheriff’s Department pulled back members of its Special Weapons and Tactics team who were wading through sagebrush-choked fields and grounded a Colorado State Patrol plane that had been sent airborne Tuesday morning. Deputies worked overnight Monday into Tuesday combing a search area between 9 1/2 and 10 roads and R and S roads.
“The area that would be reasonable for them to find things or find him, there’s a lot of ground out there,” Sheriff’s Department spokeswoman Heather Benjamin said. “They’ve covered as much as possible, and so, realistically, we’ve done what we can. We’ve beat the bushes. So, we’ve got to pull back until we have more information or another lead comes along.” The search netted one suspect, 32-year-old German Martinez-Riveria of Los Angeles, Monday evening. Investigators believe the second, unidentified Hispanic man is armed, and they advise residents to lock their doors and windows, not pick up hitchhikers and report suspicious activity.
The car thefts, which occurred within a few blocks and minutes of one another, rattled the residents of this normally quiet town.
According to an arrest affidavit obtained by The Daily Sentinel, a Fruita woman went inside the Fruita Community Center, 324 N. Coulson St., around 3:30 p.m. Monday and returned to the parking lot around 4 p.m. to find her 2004 Chevrolet Silverado pickup missing.
Around 3:40 p.m., two sisters from California pulled into the Go-Fer Foods, 106 S. Park Square, to fill up their 2008 Dodge Nitro. One sister went inside the station to pay. The other sister, who was in the passenger seat, told police a Hispanic man climbed into the driver’s seat and told her to get out.
When she told him no, the man, who was partially covering his face, pulled out a handgun, raised the barrel of it to her head and told her to “get the (expletive) out of the car” or he would kill her, the affidavit said.
The sister told police she took the keys out of the ignition, but the man grabbed them from her. She said she tried to grab her purse, but the man began pulling forward and drove around a woman who tried to intervene. The sister said she had to jump out of the car before the Nitro sped off, with the stolen black truck following, the affidavit said.
A man who was driving near the gas station when the carjacking happened followed the Silverado and Nitro west on Interstate 70, then north on Colorado Highway 139 until the two vehicles pulled off the side of the highway. The driver of the Silverado got out and jumped into the passenger seat of the Nitro, and the Nitro continued north on Colorado 139, the affidavit said.
The authorities found the abandoned Silverado around 4:30 p.m., then spotted the Nitro near the Mack exit off I-70. A chase that at times exceeded 115 mph ensued, ending when the Nitro skidded off the road at the intersection of 10 and R roads and crashed into a power pole. The two men then took off on foot, with one of them tossing away a wrench that officers later found, the affidavit said.
Officers found one of the men, Martinez-Riveria, hiding nearby in a ravine around 7 p.m. and arrested him. He declined to speak with officers at the Mesa County Jail.
Dressed in a yellow jumpsuit and aided by a Spanish-speaking interpreter, Martinez-Riveria appeared in court Tuesday and was advised he could be charged with one felony count of conspiracy to commit kidnapping and two counts of conspiracy to commit aggravated motor-vehicle theft. County Judge Gretchen Larson ordered him held on $150,000 bond, $100,000 less than requested by District Attorney Pete Hautzinger.
Hautzinger said Martinez-Riveria has at least three prior felony convictions and is eligible for habitual-criminal prosecution, which would enhance his prison sentence, if he is convicted.
In addition to the bond, Martinez-Riveria is under a U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement hold.