A pursuit through the Safeway shopping center where officers and shoppers were nearly struck, followed by an extensive search through town, ended with two men in custody last weekend.

On Saturday, Aug. 7, at 10:30 p.m., an officer from the Tonto Apache Police Department attempted to stop a blue Mitsubishi passenger vehicle that was northbound on Highway 87 for a civil traffic violation. The vehicle reportedly sped away.

“The vehicle pulled into the Safeway shopping center, continuing at a speed estimated by Payson Police officers in the area at 65+ mph through the parking lot,” according to a press release. “The vehicle almost struck pedestrians in the shopping center and, at one point, attempted to go head on with a Payson Police patrol vehicle.”

The vehicle sped out of the parking lot, heading northbound on Highway 87.

Officers threw down a spike strip, but it was unsuccessful.

The Mitsubishi weaved into oncoming traffic lanes at the roundabout at North Highway 87 and Airport Road and continued onto West Airport Road.

While going through the roundabout, the occupants reportedly threw a plastic bag from the window, which was later identified as 111.5 grams of methamphetamine.

Officers pulled back as the pursuit entered the residential area.

They later located the vehicle crashed into a rock near the southwest end of the airport runway. The two men inside had fled.

Inside the vehicle was a New Mexico driver’s license and an Arizona Department of Corrections identification card for a Andres Juarez.

Officers used a K-9 to track the men as well as an Arizona Department of Public Safety ranger helicopter.

At approximately 3 a.m., officers located the passenger, Dauvel Garcia, of Phoenix, walking southbound on Highway 87 near the Payson laundromat.

At 6 a.m., officers used an undercover vehicle to help locate Juarez on Longhorn Road.

Juarez was booked into Gila County Jail on charges of possession of dangerous drugs, possession of dangerous drugs for sale, transport for sale of a dangerous drug, tampering with evidence, aggravated assault on a law enforcement officer, failure to yield to emergency vehicle and possession of drug paraphernalia.

Garcia was arrested on charges of possession of dangerous drugs, possession of dangerous drugs for sale and transport for sale of a dangerous drug.

Anyone in the Safeway parking lot during the time of the pursuit, or who was almost struck by the suspect’s vehicle, is asked to contact Det. Mike Varga at 928-474-5177 ext. 5084.

Contact the editor at abechman@payson.com

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