A routine traffic stop turned into a high-speed chase through local neighborhoods Friday evening, ending on a dead-end road in Strawberry. With officers in hot pursuit, the driver of the rented 2000 Sephia Kia maintained his lead, and eventually fled on foot into the woods of northern Gila County.
Payson Police Lt. Don Engler said the suspect and his passenger were first stopped at 6:15 p.m. on East Bonita Street.
"He was wanted for a warrant arrest for probation violation," Engler said.
Moments later, the chase began as the driver fled east on Bonita. With officers close behind, the driver's flight took him down St. Philips Street, to Frontier Street, Manzanita Drive, back to Bonita, then to Granite Dells Road. From there, he crossed into north Payson on Mud Springs Road, to Briarwood Road in Alpine Heights, down Bradley and Rancho Roads, eventually making his way to the Beeline Highway.
"Once he made it to the Beeline, he headed north," Engler said. "We had a helicopter keeping an eye on him, estimating that his speed got up to ... as much as 100 mph."
While Payson police chased the suspect, officers from the Arizona Department of Public Safety joined in, as did Gila County Sheriff's Deputies.
"DPS has stop sticks, but they were never in a position to employ them," Engler said. Stop sticks are devices that can be thrown in the path of an oncoming vehicle to stop its forward movement. "The other officers in the area (north of town) didn't have stop sticks."
Still on the move, the pursuit led through Pine, north to Strawberry and down Dan's Highway, where the driver turned off onto a dead-end road and finally came to a stop.
With a helicopter still overhead, the driver jumped out of the Kia and ran into the woods. His passenger, Strawberry resident Kenneth Yocum, "gave himself up to deputies in the area," the lieutenant said. He was not charged with any crime.
As darkness fell on the woods, officers continued their search for the suspect, and were aided by a DPS Ranger helicopter, equipped with night vision.
Additional officers were called to the area from Payson's Special Response Team, and the local canine unit. Despite two confirmed sightings of the man, officers eventually lost his trail.
"It appears the individual has been spending some time in that area for the last week or so," Engler said. "We suspected there was a residence up there he might be returning to, but that place ended up being considerably farther away from w`here he stopped."
The suspect is a 42-year-old white male, 5 feet 10 inches tall, weighing about 185 pounds. He has short brown hair, blue eyes and was last seen wearing black pants and a dark green shirt. Anyone with information about the suspect can call the Payson Police Department at 474-5177.