Two suspects fleeing police were discovered at church dinner

File photo of a Utah Highway Patrol vehicle in St. George, Utah, Nov. 2, 2016 | Photo by Cody Blowers, St. George News

ST. GEORGE A pursuit and arrest that traversed two states and spanned nearly 9 hours ended after SunRiver residents recognized the suspects during a church dinner and called police, according to further details obtained by St. George News.

As reported in a story published yesterday, the incident began at 1 p.m. Wednesday on southbound Interstate 15 near Exit 4, spilled into Arizona and doubled back to Utah before it was finally resolved after 8 p.m. when two suspects were taken into custody.

But that wasn’t the whole story.

An interview with SunRiver manager Kamarie Naase Thursday night shed some light on the events that took place after the two suspects came back to Utah on foot, leaving two reportedly stolen vehicles abandoned and disabled.

The duo set off heading north to make the five-mile trek from Black Rock Road in Mohave County, Arizona, to SunRiver, a 55-plus active adult community with about 4,000 residents.

Two hours earlier, Naase received information from police in Arizona that gave a detailed description of the suspects reportedly heading in the direction of SunRiver, information that was immediately sent out to all area residents alerting them to the situation.

Meanwhile, the suspects reached the community and entered a chapel of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints located on Angel Arch Drive where a dinner event was being held in the cultural hall.

Both sat down and were offered food.

Several residents attending the dinner recognized the pair from information they received in the alert and called police, Neese said.

The suspects overheard a reference to the alert and both “jumped up and ran out of the church,” before officers arrived.

A K-9 tracked one suspect’s scent to a trash can where the deputy lifted the lid to find a man hiding inside.

Minutes later officers located the second suspect, a teenage girl, hiding in a bush near the wash on the outskirts of SunRiver, just blocks from where the first suspect was located.

As soon as the male suspect was in custody and the teen was detained, neither wanted to speak to police and both requested an attorney, which terminated any questioning at that point, Lt. Rob Nixon, UHP DUI squad, interdiction and K-9 leader, told St. George News Friday.

Utah’s Special Bureau of Investigations was called in and is handling the case from here, Nixon said, adding that it is common practice for the DUI squad or other interdiction teams within the Department of Public Safety to work closely with SBI, an “agency with additional resources and the ability to access SIAC, Utah’s Statewide Information and Analysis Center that can process and locate information quickly.”

Nixon said SIAC investigators were able to determine very early in the investigation that both vehicles were stolen out of California, and later were able to locate the teen’s guardians who were contacted shortly after the incident.

SunRiver’s Neese said that having such a rapid communication system allowed the residents to be of assistance to law enforcement because once they saw the suspects they called police immediately. Officers had been scouring the area for hours and were able to locate and arrest the pair “very soon after the call.”

“We have an excellent communications system and an active community which worked out really well in this case,” Neese said.

Multiple agencies assisted UHP during the 9-hour incident, including the Washington County Sheriff’s Office, St. George Police, an agent with the Bureau of Land Management, SUU Aviation Academy, which sent a helicopter to provide aerial support during the search, the Mohave County Sheriff’s Office and the Arizona Department of Public Safety.

This report is based on statements from police or other responders and may not contain the full scope of findings. Persons arrested or charged are presumed innocent until found guilty in a court of law or as otherwise decided by a trier-of-fact.

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