WASHINGTON COUNTY — A Las Vegas man who led officers on a high speed pursuit Wednesday evening on Interstate 15 that began in Arizona and ended in Utah apparently made sure his flight was captured on camera.
Shortly after 8 p.m., MST, Arizona Highway Patrol Trooper Gregg McBride stopped a white Ford Mustang for going 108 mph, Sgt. John Bottoms with the Arizona Department of Public Safety said.
The driver, Christian Louis Thomas of Las Vegas, was stopped in the median of the interstate when McBride approached and asked him to exit the vehicle, Bottoms said, but the driver refused.
Thomas then accelerated back onto the interstate heading north with McBride following close behind.
The chase continued through the Virgin River Gorge, reaching speeds of 125 mph, until McBride reached the Utah state line where he terminated the pursuit.
“Trooper McBride feared that traffic may be congested near the construction zone at Exit 4 in Utah,” Bottoms said, “and did not want to cause a collision.”
Thomas then continued into Utah at speeds in excess of 100 mph. As he approached Exit 10 his vehicle rolled over spike strips deployed by Utah Highway Patrol troopers minutes before, Lt. Dave Crouse with the Washington County Sheriff’s Office said.
Thomas continued north on two flattened tires that were punctured by the strips with deputies in pursuit.
“Initially it was two tires that were punctured, but he continued reaching speeds in excess of 100 mph on two deflated tires,” Crouse said.
The pursuit ended near Exit 31 where officers were able to stop the vehicle safely.
“That’s where the story gets interesting,” Crouse said.
Thomas was placed under arrest initially for the pursuit charge but while searching the vehicle officers found a video camera that was still recording.
“In reviewing the tape it appears that the driver requested that his passenger record him during the police chase,” Crouse said.
The footage also showed that the passenger in the vehicle was “not a willing participant” in the chase and was heard asking Thomas to pull over multiple times throughout the ordeal, but he refused.
In addition to exonerating the passenger of any charges, the footage also provided information which resulted in additional charges for Thomas, Crouse said, including a charge of reckless endangerment.
The passenger, a woman, was released after deputies reviewed the footage, while Thomas was booked into Purgatory Correctional Facility on numerous offenses. He faces two third degree felony charges for fleeing police and criminal mischief, in addition to reckless endangerment, a class A misdemeanor; reckless driving, a class B misdemeanor; one count of operating a handheld communication device and one for improper plate/registration, both class C misdemeanors; and a seat belt violation.
The felony criminal mischief charge was likely applied because of the tire damage sustained by two vehicles driving near the suspect’s vehicle when the spike strips were deployed at Exit 10, Utah Highway Patrol Trooper Jared Cornia said.
Thomas’s vehicle was rendered inoperable after the chase and was impounded subsequent to his arrest. No injuries were reported.
Thomas remains in custody at the writing of this report.
The Washington County Sheriff’s Office is processing a request for copies of dash cam video taken by deputies during the chase.