IRON COUNTY — A Colorado man led Utah Highway Patrol troopers on a high-speed chase through Iron County Wednesday morning, traveling first south and then north on Interstate 15. The chase ended with road spikes, weapons drawn and the driver receiving multiple felony and misdemeanor charges, including drug charges for personal possession of both methamphetamine and marijuana.
At 8:46 a.m., a man driving an orange Toyota Scion flew by UHP Trooper Clay Allred at a speed of 115 mph, UHP Sgt. Ryan Bauer said.
Allred began pursuing the man, later identified as Austin Shaffer, 33, of Colorado, at milepost 62 on southbound I-15, attempting to pull him over, Bauer said, but instead of slowing down, Shaffer accelerated, reaching speeds upwards of 129 mph. Additional troopers joined in the pursuit with the help of the Iron County Sheriff’s Office. (See ed. note)
Suddenly, Shaffer took Exit 42 toward New Harmony, made an abrupt left, traveled under the overpass and re-entered I-15 heading north, Bauer said.
“Again, speeds are 120 to 120-plus at times,” he said. “But the troopers were able to successfully deploy spikes at milepost 54 just south of here and was able to spike the left front tire.”
Shaffer swerved to avoid the road spikes, UHP Trooper Bambi Baie said, and in the process nearly ran her over.
Shaffer made a sharp right-hand turn after coming in contact with the spike strips, Bauer said, and it looked as though he was considering breaking through the fence to the frontage road that ran alongside of the northbound lane.
It was then that Trooper Allred used the push bar on the front of his patrol car to drive the Toyota into the berm between the interstate and the fence that separates I-15 from the frontage road, Bauer said.
Shaffer was surrounded at gunpoint, Bauer said, and once he exited the vehicle, troopers safely apprehended him.
In a felony stop situation like this one, Bauer said, drawing weapons is standard operating procedure.
“Obviously, it’s a felony-type situation,” he said. “We don’t know if there’s going to be a shootout. We don’t know if he is going to run on us. We don’t really know what’s going to happen when (the chase ends).”
Circumstances like these can become dicey fast, Bauer said, so troopers work hard to ensure the safety of passing motorists who are driving into a potentially dangerous situation unawares, as well as law enforcement who are working to pacify the situation.
A lot of times, the vehicle under pursuit comes to a stop in a travel lane, Bauer said, and given the extremity of the situation, troopers often clear the road of traffic by setting up a stop that will impede oncoming motorists from traveling into danger and to help protect the public.
Shaffer was booked into the Iron County Jail. He has been charged with three third-degree felonies for aggravated assault on a peace officer, evading and possession of methamphetamine; and four class B misdemeanors for DUI, reckless driving, possession of marijuana and possession of paraphernalia.
Persons arrested or charged are presumed innocent until found guilty in a court of law or as otherwise decided by a trier-of-fact.
Ed. note: Spelling of suspect’s surname corrected.
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