Man who drove stolen car wrong way on I-70 at 104 mph sentenced to 24 years | PostIndependent.com

Man who drove stolen car wrong way on I-70 at 104 mph sentenced to 24 years

Randy Wyrick
Vail Daily

Ruben Martinez admitted he stole a Chevy Impala at gunpoint in Aurora, then drove it to Eagle County where he was headed west in the eastbound lane of I-70 at 104 mph, all while shooting at pursuing police. He was sentenced Monday to 24 years in prison.

EAGLE — Ruben Martinez was on probation and wasn’t allowed to have a gun, like the one he used to steal an Aurora Uber driver’s car.

He was also supposed to avoid narcotics and other controlled substances, like the ones he loaded into the car that he stole at gunpoint.

And speeding while driving back and forth between Gypsum and Eagle on Interstate 70, east in the westbound lane and west in the eastbound lane, at 104 mph, will attract law enforcement’s attention.

Martinez admitted using that gun to fire at law enforcement officers through the back window of the stolen car he was driving.

Martinez did all this on his 23rd birthday on St. Patrick’s Day 2018 after a breakup with his girlfriend.

District Court Judge Russell Granger sentenced the 24-year-old Martinez to 24 years in state prison on Monday. Because it’s a crime of violence, Martinez has to serve at least 75 percent of his sentence at a minimum of 18 years. Martinez could have been sentenced to 32 years or more.

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Much more to his history

During Monday’s sentencing hearing no one argued that Martinez did not do any of this — he pleaded guilty to his crimes — but that his criminal behavior was the result of a very challenging upbringing.

Defense attorney Thea Reiff said his March 2018 crime spree was the culmination of a lifetime of physical abuse, suffered at the hands of his father, and drug use.

Marie Martinez, his mother, said her son is responsible and accountable for what he has done. She also asked for help.

“I write this with the heaviest of hearts given the situation in which my only son finds himself,” she said in a letter to the court.

She’s a candidate for her master's degree in social work and works with Court Appointed Special Advocates (CASA). She said she sees boys like Ruben all the time.

Her son did not have a choice in his behavior, she said. The domestic violence in which he was embroiled kept his brain from developing normally, a study to which she said she has devoted much of her adult life.

Ruben also did not have a choice about the “monster” of a father who raised him, abused her, molested Ruben’s sister and used narcotics — sometimes taking Ruben with him to buy the drugs, she said. His mother said her ex-husband once hit her so hard that he knocked her out of her wheelchair, according to Monday’s testimony. Ruben saw all that and more, his mother said.

It finally came to a head when Ruben’s father threatened his wife and children with a samurai sword. His mother said she and the children fled with nothing but the clothes on their backs. Ruben ran across the snow in his stocking feet, escaping his father, his mother said.

“This is not a bad child. This is a damaged child. There is a difference. He was not born a monster, but a monster raised him,” his grandmother said in a letter to the court.

Ruben said he used marijuana every day beginning at 14, started using methamphetamine at 18 and said he was soon doing an eight ball of cocaine every day. To support that habit he started selling drugs as a teenager.

While he has been in jail, his behavior has changed for the better, because he does not have access to drugs, Chief Deputy District Attorney Joe Kirwan said.

“We all have moral compasses. Mr. Martinez's compass, quite frankly, has been askew for quite some time,” Kirwan said.

'It's a miracle no one was killed'

The 17-minute chase began at 6:34 a.m. when Eagle County Sheriff’s Deputy Evan Jaramillo was leaving Eagle County with this family, headed to southwest Colorado to visit relatives. Jaramillo was among the first to call 911, reporting that Martinez was speeding the wrong way up I-70.

Ironically, the first on-duty deputies to spot Martinez were taking a different suspect to the Eagle County jail. They and other deputies started a rolling roadblock until they had him surrounded. As they followed him they noticed that the stolen car’s rear window was blown out as if someone had been shooting through it.

The video shown during Tuesday’s sentencing hearing shows bits of glass from the rear window showering a patrol vehicle after Martinez shot through it.

“I shot at the officers chasing me until I was out of bullets and gas. I regret what I have done every day,” Martinez wrote in his statement.

Martinez then crossed through the median just west of Eagle from the westbound lane to the eastbound lane. He crossed back and forth several times.

“It’s a miracle no one was killed,” Kirwan said.

“He did some 'Dukes of Hazzard' driving through the median and into oncoming traffic to avoid us,” detective Aaron Veldheer said.

It didn’t work.

Martinez finally stopped at 6:51 a.m., conveniently behind the District Attorney’s Office and jail. As he climbed out of the stolen car he tried to ditch the gun. He managed to throw it in the middle of the I-70 where police saw it come to a rest and picked it up.

He climbed halfway out of the stolen white 2008 Chevy Impala, shouting, “Just shoot me! Just shoot me!” according to the arrest affidavit.

At 7 a.m., Martinez was booked into the Eagle County jail. His pupils were so dilated that deputies could barely determine his eye color when he was booked into the jail. He also had trouble standing up on his own, the arrest affidavit said.

Deputies found cocaine in his wallet and approximately 60 small plastic baggies, the arrest affidavit said. Some contained cocaine, some contained blotters of LSD and another contained amphetamines.