Two men in custody after Monday car chase, foot pursuit near Parachute; possible auto theft ring under investigation

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Garfield County authorities have two men in custody after a vehicle chase and foot pursuit near Parachute on Monday, in a case with ties to another police chase and burglary at remote Sweetwater Lake late last week.

The case is still under active investigation, but possibly linked to an auto theft ring in the Parachute area, police said.

Garfield County Sheriff’s deputies, with assistance from Parachute Police and the Colorado State Patrol, arrested William Lewis Riddle, 31, and John Brandon Stagg, 32, on multiple charges including felony motor vehicle theft, burglary, trespassing and tampering with evidence.

The two men were advised in an initial hearing in 9th District Court in Glenwood Springs on Tuesday. Riddle remained in the Garfield County Jail Tuesday afternoon on $26,500 bond, while Stagg was being held on $25,000 bond.

The suspects were arrested Monday afternoon east of Parachute on I-70 between Lundgren overpass and the Rulison exit.

The arrests followed the pursuit of a vehicle that had been identified as stolen from the Parachute area, according to a Garfield County Sheriff’s Office release issued Tuesday afternoon.

During the chase, the suspect vehicle crossed through a fence from the south side of I-70 to the north side where the suspects abandoned the vehicle and fled on foot.

Officers gave chase through the rough terrain. The suspects surrendered after being surrounded, according to the release.

Several items were recovered during and after the pursuit that were identified as having been stolen from a cabin near Sweetwater Lake, located in the far eastern part of Garfield County, last week.

That incident followed a vehicle pursuit that began in Garfield County the morning of July 23 and continued in Eagle County, before leading to the Sweetwater area on the county line.

“That pursuit ended in the Sweetwater area of Garfield County with another stolen vehicle being abandoned at that time,” according to the release.

A subsequent hunt for the suspect in the area was unsuccessful, and area residents were encouraged to keep their doors and vehicles locked. 

“We believe the two incidents are related and that the person who abandoned the vehicle in the Sweetwater area is no longer in that area,” according to the Tuesday release.

“The investigation continues in both incidents. Local residents of Sweetwater, as well as other communities, are encouraged, as a matter of best practices, to keep their doors locked at all times and not leave keys or other valuables in their vehicles,” the sheriff’s release stated.

The Monday afternoon chase came following another chase that morning in the Parachute area, likely involving the same suspects, that had to be abandoned for safety reasons, Sheriff Lou Vallario said on Monday.

“We had a couple more vehicles reported stolen out of Parachute today, and we think maybe what we’re dealing with is a theft ring,” Vallario said.

One Sweetwater resident, Michael Davis, said residents of the area were on edge all weekend after the earlier incident, not knowing if the suspect in that case was still on the loose.

Davis said the truck at one point drove through a cattle drive that was occurring and knocked one of the cowboys off his horse.

Residents of the Sweetwater community were notified of the incident and updated through a reverse 911 system.

At some point later that night, the suspect broke into a cabin and stole several firearms and ammunition. It was not clear from the charges leveled after the Monday arrests if Riddle or Stagg may have been the suspect in that case.

Police did conduct search efforts in the Sweetwater area using K9 teams on Thursday and Friday, and were back over the weekend continuing the search and talking to residents to gather more evidence, Vallario said.

Davis expressed some concerns that not enough was done to locate the suspect Thursday night, and said that the remote area is lacking in the way of police protection.

“Most of the community up there feels very neglected,” he said, noting the split jurisdiction between Garfield and Eagle counties. Davis said the neighborhood plans to arrange a meeting with the two sheriff’s offices to discuss protocol for future incidents.

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