Alleged vehicle burglary triggers crash of stolen pickup on I-15

File photo by Cody Blowers, St. George News

ST. GEORGE — Bystanders on Interstate 15 tackled and detained a local man after he attempted to gain access to occupied vehicles just minutes after he crashed a pickup stolen from the parking lot of a Panda Express on Thursday.

Traffic is backed up behind the scene of a crash on Interstate 15 in Washington County, Utah, July 19, 2019 | Photo courtesy of the Utah Department of Transportation, St. George News

Milton Owens, 24, of St. George was arrested and booked into jail on multiple offenses after police say he crashed a vehicle allegedly stolen less than 30 minutes prior. Owens attempted to break into both occupied and unoccupied cars while fleeing from the scene of a crash Thursday afternoon, according to two probable cause statements filed in support of the arrest.

The incident began just after 3 p.m. when St. George Police officers responded to a report of a suspicious male in the area of 929 W. Sunset Blvd. after a 911 caller reported seeing an individual, later identified as Owens, attempting to enter a number of unoccupied vehicles in the parking lot.

Owens allegedly was able to get into a Toyota that was parked at the gas station on Sunset Boulevard and then exited just moments later without taking anything from the SUV.

Police say Owens entered a second vehicle while the driver was purchasing gas and, once inside, took an iPhone, a credit card and other miscellaneous cards from the cup holder. The man was reportedly seen leaving the parking lot on foot heading north toward Sunset Corner just as officers arrived on scene and began circling the area in search of the suspect.

Milton Benjamin Owens, 24, of St. George, booking photo taken in Washington County, Utah, July 18, 2019 | Booking photo courtesy of the Washington County Sheriff’s Office, St. George News

Minutes later, officers were notified by the St. George Communications Center that Owens had allegedly stolen a 1997 Ford Ranger from Sunset Corner and, as he headed north on Interstate 15, crashed the vehicle just south of the Coral Canyon Exit. 

The suspect then fled from the crash on foot and attempted to enter a number of cars that were occupied at the time, which is when several bystanders became involved and were able to restrain the suspect until authorities arrived. Owens became combative and allegedly injured one of the bystanders during the struggle, police say.

Once UHP Troopers arrived, they placed Owens under arrest. They quickly learned that the pickup truck involved in the crash was the same vehicle reported stolen after a man called 911 to report that his truck was missing from Panda Express off Sunset Boulevard. The man also told police he left his keys in the car while inside the restaurant.

The pickup also matched the one described in a number of reckless driving reports received just prior to the crash. According to court records, a number of witnesses reported seeing the vehicle traveling recklessly, weaving in and out of traffic and veering out of the travel lane. The suspect nearly caused several collisions while heading north on I-15 for more than five miles – from Exit 8 to mile post 14 where the accident took place.

During a search of the pickup, police found the iPhone on the seat of the crashed truck that matched the description of the phone reported stolen at the gas station earlier. They also found a driver’s license matching the name of one of the victims.

Additionally, Owens was reportedly the sole occupant in the vehicle when it was taken from Sunset Corner, and combined with evidence gathered at the scene on I-15, officers determined that Owens was the suspect responsible for the vehicle burglary.

The defendant was then transported to Purgatory Correctional Facility on multiple offenses. He faces one second-degree felony count each for robbery and possession of a stolen vehicle. He also faces four misdemeanors: assault, vehicle burglary, leaving the scene of an accident and reckless driving.

Troopers also cited Owens for a traffic infraction for never obtaining a driver’s license.

The defendant remains in custody on $24,380 bail.

St. George News reporter Mori Kessler contributed to this report.

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.

 

Email: cblowers@stgnews.com

Twitter: @STGnews

Copyright St. George News, SaintGeorgeUtah.com LLC, 2019, all rights reserved.

 

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