Bruised, thirsty and desperate, a 57-year-old murder suspect surrendered to officers quietly Wednesday afternoon, it was the weary conclusion to dramatic events that started with a mysterious murder, a lucky break, an 80-mile, high-speed chase, barely averted head-on collisions, a shoot-out with officers and a flight into the desert.
After five days in the desert north of Roosevelt Lake, Gabriel “Gabby” Jaramillo gladly drank from officers’ water bottles when they finally caught up with him.
Gila County Sheriff’s Office Lt. Tim Scott, who oversaw a command center at the lake, said he was somewhat surprised at Jaramillo’s sudden surrender, “but on the other hand, he had been out there almost five days with no fresh drinking water.”
An alert boater who Jaramillo approached on the shores of the lake tipped officers to his presence.
Jaramillo is wanted for questioning in connection with a possible homicide in Eagar. Officers spotted Jaramillo driving a vehicle this weekend belonging to a man missing since Aug. 21. The man’s body may have been found near a lake in Apache County, but a medical examiner has yet to identify it.
Eagar police had been following up reports that Jaramillo had fled to the Valley in the victim’s Toyota Tundra Saturday when they spotted the vehicle by chance on Highway 60.
Turns out, as one officer left the Miami area, he received word that the suspect may still be in the Valley, so he turned around. He then saw Jaramillo driving in the other direction, Scott said.
Officers followed Jaramillo to a gas station. Not wanting to create a scene, they waited until he left the station to pull him over.
Jaramillo began to pull over, appearing to cooperate with officers, but suddenly he accelerated, and fled the scene.
Because police considered Jaramillo an armed murder suspect, they gave chase, Scott said. Often, officers back off
such chases if they deem the pursuit too great a danger to other motorists.
Luckily, traffic was very light Saturday afternoon on Highway 188 as the Tundra went over 90, then 100 and then 105 mph.
Dispatchers called the speeds out as officers from the sheriff’s office, Globe-Miami, Eagar and the Department of Public Safety weaved through traffic and sped to keep up.
Officers in the Roosevelt area rushed to block access to neighborhoods, hoping to keep Jaramillo out of residential areas, Scott said.
Jaramillo tried to turn down State Route 288 to Young, then the Roosevelt Resort subdivision and Roosevelt Estates turnoff. Each time officers blocked his access.
Jaramillo finally turned onto Tonto Creek Trail in Tonto Basin and sped across several residential yards before looping onto Dryer Drive and back to the highway.
He then headed south, crossing over Tonto Creek at the Bar X crossing.
“He shot down the backside of Cline Boulevard,” Scott said.
The next few miles of road would be the most terrifying for officers.
As Jaramillo passed one officer stopped on the side of the road, he fired a shot at him.
Then as Jaramillo sped toward an oncoming squad car, the officer fired, thinking Jaramillo would hit him head on. Jaramillo reportedly returned fire. Jaramillo then fired at another officer.
“That was the scariest part of the whole thing,” Scott said.
Scott believes an officer’s shots struck the vehicle’s radiator, rupturing it and causing the Tundra to overheat and shut down.
That did little to deter Jaramillo. He fled into the desert, taking cover in the darkness.
Although officers searched by foot and by helicopter for the next five days, they had little idea where Jaramillo was hiding.
On Wednesday, they got a lucky break.
A local boater called the sheriff’s office to report a man had approached their boat while they were swimming on the north side of Roosevelt Lake across from Windy Hill. The boater described the man as dirty and wanting water.
Sheriff’s officer Sgt. Keith Thompson and a DPS officer responded to the Windy Hill boat ramp while Deputy Wayne Dorsett responded in a patrol boat.
Thompson initially thought the man had been spotted at Windy Hill on the south side of the lake and ruled out it was Jaramillo.
But when Thompson found the boater, he learned the mystery man was on the north side of Roosevelt Lake, east of Salome Cove. Thompson’s heart skipped a beat.
That area is not accessible by road, so spotting a man out there without a boat is rare, he said.
As officers approached the shore, Thompson saw Jaramillo hiding under a dead, overturned tree.
He made no motion to run. As officers made landfall, they told Jaramillo to take off his shirt, where he could be hiding a weapon, and walk toward them.
Jaramillo did as he was told while a Flagstaff DPS helicopter flew overhead.
When Thompson asked for his name, Jaramillo readily admitted his identity.
Then he gladly took a bottle of water from the boat, Thompson said.
Officers did not recover any weapons from the scene.
“I think we had the impression he had been drinking lake water,” he said.
Thompson said he was glad the manhunt ended more quietly than it began.
“We all came home safe to our families,” he said. “It all makes for a good day.”
Dehydrated and complaining of back pain after falling down a cliff, police took Jaramillo to a Globe hospital. When released, officers will book him into the Globe Jail.
The GCSO plans to book Jaramillo on several felony counts, including three counts of attempted murder, three counts of aggravated assault against a police office, three counts of drive-by shooting, possession of stolen property and disorderly conduct. He may also face other charges in Apache County.
Gila County Sheriff John Armer thanked the vigilant boater who reported Jaramillo and the following agencies who assisted in the search: DPS, Arizona Department of Corrections K-9 and tracking teams, Globe-Miami Police Departments, Pinal County Sheriff’s Office aviation, Mesa Police aviation, Phoenix Police aviation, Maricopa County Sheriff’s Office aviation and patrol, Gilbert Police special operations, U.S. Marshals, Apache County Sheriff’s Office and Eagar Police Department.