Brewster County Sheriff’s Office involved in high-speed chase during Chili Cook Off weekend

A high-speed chase in Terlingua led to a shootout –– and an arrest –– last Friday along Highway 118. Photo courtesy of the Brewster County Sheriff’s Office.

TERLINGUA — Last Friday morning, Brewster County Sheriff Ronny Dodson and deputies lined Highway 118 in an attempt to end a high-speed pursuit. The vehicle’s driver — Jordan Dartanian Ortiz — was transporting two migrants who had crossed the river in Presidio County and his girlfriend, whose name authorities have not released. 

Dodson was notified of a suspicious vehicle driving south by Customs and Border Protection staff at the checkpoint on Highway 118 south of Alpine. The driver — presumably upon seeing that the checkpoint was open — turned around and drove toward Terlingua at speeds of up to 123 miles per hour. 

That morning, the BCSO had an unusually high concentration of officers in Terlingua because of the annual Chili Cook Off, attended by thousands of people each November. Deputies set up shop at the Cowboy Mine about 30 miles north of Study Butte.

The sheriff entered the scene about 10 miles south and initially planned to attempt to shoot the vehicle’s radiator from the side of the road, but quickly abandoned that idea. “He was going so fast, he could’ve run me down like nothing,” Dodson said. 

The officers ended up using Stop Sticks — a device used to puncture tires — and the vehicle eventually slid into a ditch near the Emergency Response Center after ramming into a BCSO patrol vehicle. 

In recent years, the term “high-speed chase” has become a buzzword in the world of immigration policy. Back in September, both Congressman Tony Gonzales and Senator Ted Cruz introduced companion bills in their respective chambers that would impose harsher penalties on human smugglers. “​​My legislation will make traffickers think twice before engaging in a high-speed chase, since it includes serious jail time,” Cruz wrote in a press release. 

Despite the frequent invocation of the term “high-speed chase,” neither the House nor Senate bills use that term — instead, the penalties are imposed for resisting arrest. 

Dodson said that actual high-speed chases were something his department had dealt with before, but that Friday’s incident marked the highest speeds he had ever seen. “This one was exceptional,” he said. 

While the pursuit on Highway 118 was terrifying for all involved, Dodson said his primary goal was to prevent these types of incidents from taking place in highly-populated areas. 

He also was concerned for the people being smuggled by drivers trying to evade law enforcement. “I don’t care so much about the guy driving,” he said. “But he had passengers.”