Driver Rolls While Fleeing Police

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David Quinonez Guerra, 30, was arrested and charged with seven felony counts after he rolled his vehicle with two children inside on Main Street Thursday.

Police began looking for the vehicle Guerra was driving, a 1989 gray Oldsmobile, at about 2:30 p.m. after receiving a report the vehicle was being driven recklessly on Houston Mesa Road.

Payson Police officer David Vaughn spotted the vehicle as it was westbound on Highway 260 approaching Highway 87. He turned on his emergency lights and stopped the car in the 100 block of West Longhorn. However, the vehicle drove away at a high rate of speed westbound on Longhorn before Vaughn could make contact with the driver.

Vaughn did not pursue the vehicle. Instead, he notified police dispatchers that the vehicle had failed to stop and the male driver had two small children in the car. Vaughn last saw the vehicle as it was southbound on McLane from Longhorn.

Police saturated the area in marked and unmarked vehicles.

Detective Matt VanCamp located the car in the 700 block of W. Main. VanCamp, who was in an unmarked police car radioed the location as the vehicle went speeding west on Main Street to Country Club.

Officer David Blalock was parked near Green Valley Lake when the car traveled past him at 60 mph, according to police.

The vehicle then attempted to evade the police by turning south on Western off Country Club. However, with only two ways out of the subdivision, police were waiting with tire spikes.

Guerra approached the roadblock on Western at Country Club and a standoff began as police tried to negotiate with him to surrender. Guerra shut off the engine and took off his seat belt, but remained defiant toward the police. Officers saw the children in the car, females aged 4 and 7, crying.

The 10-minute standoff ended when Guerra put his seat belt back on, started the car and drove over the road spikes. He turned east onto Country Club toward Main dragging the spikes, which had flattened three of his tires.

Police followed closely as Guerra's tires began to wear down to their rims. In the 700 block of Main Street, Guerra's vehicle crossed over into the opposing lane of traffic, traveled up into a driveway and then struck a small tree head-on at what police estimated to be a speed of not more than 15-20 miles per hour.

The vehicle began to roll onto its top as it ran up the trunk of the tree.

Within seconds, the two girls crawled out and ran screaming into the arms of officer Vaughn. Police closed in on the vehicle and pulled Guerra, who was still strapped in his seat belt, out of the car.

Guerra was transported by ambulance to Payson Regional Medical Center where he was treated and released into the custody of police following blood tests to determine his blood alcohol content.

During the investigation it was determined that the 4-year-old was in a seat belt, however, the 7-year-old was not restrained. They were treated by the Payson Fire Department and released to their mother.

Felony charges

Guerra was booked into the Gila County jail and charged with one count of child abuse for not having the 4-year-old in a child safety seat, one count of aggravated assault because the 7-year-old was not belted in, one count of felony flight, two counts of aggravated DUI with a minor present, one count of aggravated DUI with a suspended driver's license and one count of criminal damage.

Payson Police Chief Gordon Gartner commended his officers for their handling of the situation.

"These are dangerous situations pursuits," he said.

"The officers did an excellent job of not pursuing the vehicle, but containing it. We couldn't let this guy drive away drunk with two children in the car."

The road spikes, which are normally reusable, were destroyed after they came off Guerra's vehicle in front of the Green Valley Park office.

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