Suspect at large after high speed car chase through Alpine, Marfa on Friday

Photo by Maisie Crow / A border patrol agent canvasses a residential neighborhood near North Highland Avenue on Friday looking for the suspect of a high speed chase that tore through Alpine and Marfa. As of press time, the suspect remains at large.

MARFA – A high speed car chase through Alpine and Marfa on Friday evening ended in an alleyway off of W. First Street near North Highland, when law enforcement closed in on a passenger and driver bailing from a highly modified pickup truck that had been reported as stolen in Odessa. At least five agencies arrived on scene in the aftermath, where the man believed to have been the passenger was detained, while the suspected driver evaded arrest by hopping fences and running on foot.

The incident began hours earlier, when a vehicle reported stolen from Odessa had been spotted in Monahans, heading toward Alpine. Brewster County Sheriff Ronny Dodson and a deputy set up on Highway 67 to keep lookout for the incoming dark gray Ford F350, but another deputy ultimately spotted the truck at an Alpine truck stop.

The vehicle sped off, and the deputy initiated a pursuit, which soon turned into a dangerous chase through Alpine neighborhoods. “The truck was way modified,” Sheriff Dodson said, who picked up the chase near the baseball field. “He never even hesitated at a stop sign, and of course we do,” Dodson said, which led to the truck advancing further ahead with each stop and yield sign.

“People were pointing me which way it was going and all I could do was follow the black smoke he emitted, because when they chip those trucks they blow black smoke,” Dodson said. Chipped trucks have been modified to increase horsepower and torque output. As the truck reached the west side of town, Dodson called ahead to Marfa, alerting law enforcement that the stolen vehicle was en route through Paisano Pass.

However, Presidio County Sheriff’s Office was already engaged in a car chase of their own, south of Marfa, where deputies used a spike stripe to flatten the tires of a reckless driver heading south on Highway 67 while evading Border Patrol. The vehicle continued on, striking a civilian vehicle before county deputies struck the vehicle using a pursuit intervention technique that halted the evading SUV. Seven undocumented occupants were processed and referred for prosecution for charges that include evading arrest, deadly conduct, human smuggling and endangering a minor.

Marfa Police Department stepped in to assist Brewster County Sheriff’s Office, continuing the car pursuit through the north side of Marfa as the truck recklessly took sharp turns and sped through stop signs, while many locals were out for walks and children played in front yards.

Marfa Police Chief Estevan “Steve” Marquez was off duty when an officer advised him that MPD was engaged in a pursuit, along with DPS and the sheriff’s office, of a dark gray Ford pickup, but they had lost sight of the pickup near Oak Street and weren’t able to locate it.

Marquez was in the front yard with his children when he told his officers “It’s right here in front of my house.” The truck continued on, and Officer Frank Hernandez followed the truck to a dead-end alleyway, where the suspected driver and passenger had already bailed out of the vehicle.

Neighbors reported that the suspects attempted to jump a fence into Sheriff Danny Dominguez’s backyard, but only one made it over. The other headed in the opposite direction, and the police chief apprehended him on Austin Street.

As Border Patrol, DPS, and Brewster and Presidio County Sheriff’s offices arrived on scene, two Marfa police patrolled in search of the escaped suspect. Brewster County pulled fingerprints from the vehicle, and the detained suspect refused to cooperate with Marfa PD. “The individual we did find, he was seasoned at this,” Marquez said. “He had a long criminal history and he wasn’t cooperating with any agencies.”

After the incident, the man was ultimately released from custody without being arrested. Dodson said after the incident, “We couldn’t charge him because he was a passenger, and if he was in the vehicle we could have charged him with possession of stolen property.” Since the apprehended man was found blocks away from the vehicle, he couldn’t be positively identified as one of the individuals in possession of the stolen truck.

“He did have drugs on hand,” Chief Marquez explained, “but it wasn’t enough to arrest him for, it was more of a personal use, a small amount. In our world it’s just paraphernalia because it’s a very small amount.”

PCSO arrived on scene from their other car chase to assist MPD in the search for the escaped suspect, with Sheriff Dominguez deploying a drone on North Highland Avenue to try to lay eyes on the subject. A Border Patrol agent swept through neighboring yards, carrying a long gun as he spread his search north toward Mimm’s Ranch.

If prints are able to identify the driver, he could be charged with motor vehicle theft, the felony of evading an arrest and possibly for the reckless endangerment of residents in Alpine and Marfa.

Throughout Friday night, residents called in reports of a suspicious person passing through their property in the Sal Si Puedes neighborhood. Though MPD followed those tips, hiding in the creek beds and surveilling, they were unsuccessful in locating the suspect.

“Then on Saturday morning, things got a little unusual,” said Chief Marquez. A 2003 Suburban was stolen in broad daylight near the Capri restaurant.

The owner, David Hinojos, had noticed the car was gone around 11:30 a.m., but thought it could have been a friend taking it to get cleaned. He had left the keys in the ignition, and his dog in the car too. By 1:30 p.m., he reported it missing, but with so much time elapsed, the police chief said, “The guy had almost two hours ahead of us.”

The vehicle was located abandoned in Reeves County on Saturday night under an overpass at exit 209.

Reeves County Sheriff Arturo Granado said the vehicle and the surrounding area were checked for anything left behind or the suspect themselves, but, he said, “The only thing that was in the suburban was a dog, which was still seatbelted in.” The office had no suspects or leads.

While Marquez questioned why someone would wait so long to report a stolen vehicle, after speaking with the owner, he didn’t believe he played any role in the theft. The vehicle and dog were safely returned to Marfa.

“Continue to lock your doors and don’t leave valuables in your car,” the local police chief advised. “We’re seeing a lot more of these incidents moving closer to and now actually happening in Marfa. We want to make sure to keep our town safe.”

The Friday car chase and Saturday car theft cannot be linked at this time, but Dodson, the lead on the car chase incident, said, “I assume it was the same people trying to get home.” The BCSO will deliver the finger prints pulled from the Ford truck to Pecos for processing, and hope to find a match for the driver of the vehicle.

“This could have been a lot worse,” Marquez remarked to Marfa City Council on Tuesday night as he briefed them on the incident. “There were a lot of people out, people walking, children out, it was a beautiful afternoon, and someone could have died,” he said. “These guys didn’t care what they were doing.”