ST. GEORGE — Four individuals were arrested following a mid-afternoon scuffle between a Las Vegas resident and a St. George Police officer Friday.
According to the probable cause statement filed in support of the arrest, the incident started when St. George Police Department received reports of a retail theft out of Dick’s Sporting Goods on 15 S. River Road. A witness and the store manager reported a male running from the store before entering a U-Haul vehicle with a female driver.
After the U-Haul left the scene, the witness who initially alerted police followed the vehicle to the Carl’s Jr. parking lot at 136 Red Cliffs Drive on the north side of the building. The responding officer approached the vehicle and asked one of the three female occupants to step outside toward the back of the van. The officer reported that the female driver, later identified as 29-year-old Alicia Diane Thorne of Las Vegas, Nevada, appeared nervous and her motions were jerky.
While the officer was speaking with Thorne, he observed a male matching the description of the suspect exit the U-Haul and begin running west. The officer yelled for the man, later identified as 32-year-old Michael Pugrad of Las Vegas, Nevada, to stop and identified himself as a St. George Police officer. Pugrad failed to respond and continued to flee, running into the northbound lane of travel.
The officer reached out and grabbed Pugrad’s shirt as they reached the center of the roadway, pulling the back of the shirt in an attempt to restrain him. Pugrad struggled with the officer in an attempt to flee, but the officer wrapped his arms around the suspect and pulled him to the ground, according to the statement.
Pugrad landed on his right side with his right arm tucked under his body while the officer maintained a hold on his left arm, trying to force the suspect’s torso so it was laying flat on the ground. The officer commanded Pugrad to stop fighting, but he did not comply and continued to struggle to get out of the officer’s grip.
The officer placed his left hand against the side of Pugrad’s face and pushed his head down on the ground before a second officer arrived to assist in the restraint. Law enforcement placed Pugrad in handcuffs before searching him for weapons and placing him in a patrol vehicle to be moved out of the roadway. Emergency medical services was on scene to check on the suspect and any possible injuries.
With Pugrad in custody, officers returned to the U-Haul to speak with the female occupants. The probable cause statement said Thorne initially gave officers false information, later telling officers she feared she had active warrants out of Nevada.
While officers conducted interviews with the women, a St. George Police Department K-9 officer positively alerted to the odor of illicit narcotics within the vehicle. Officers searched the vehicle and discovered several melted plastic straws with a dark residue, which they believe was heroin, in and around the center console and rear of the cab. Officers also found two pieces of tinfoil with dark, burnt residue, also consistent with heroin.
After continuing their search, officers found four $100 counterfeit bills, several retail products – including clothing – that were either unused or still had purchase tags, a glass pipe with burnt residue and a white container with a blue lid found to have several small white crystalline substances. The substances found in the container and pipe were assumed to be methamphetamine.
At the scene of the incident, Thorne denied having knowledge of the counterfeit money or illicit drugs, but the probable cause statement said she admitted to officers at Purgatory Correctional Facility that she had used heroin 10 hours prior to the arrest. She also denied having been involved in theft of stolen property or that Pugrad had been involved in theft but admitted ownership of some items with tags that she could not produce the receipts for.
Police also interviewed 28-year-old Sarah Gonzalez of Las Vegas, Nevada, and 32-year-old Alisha Kathleen Mattern of Henderson, Nevada, who were also in the U-Haul. Gonzalez denied having any knowledge of the counterfeit bills and illicit narcotics, telling officers she was four months pregnant and did not use narcotics. Gonzalez did, however, admit to knowing Pugrad had stolen products from Dick’s Sporting Goods, adding that she did not have any involvement in the left.
The statement said Mattern told officers she did have knowledge of the illicit drugs and paraphernalia, telling officers that the glass pipe belonged to her and Thorne and that they had used it to smoke methamphetamine. Mattern also told police that all four individuals involved had been taking turns smoking the methamphetamine and using straws for heroin earlier that morning. Officers were told Pugrad supplied the illicit narcotics.
Pugrad denied having knowledge of the counterfeit money, methamphetamine or paraphernalia but did admit to stealing a pair of sneakers from Dick’s Sporting Goods. Other presumably stolen goods found in back of the U-Haul did not involve him, Pugrad told police. All of the stolen goods were returned to Dick’s, which amounted to approximately $852.
Pugrad was booked into Purgatory Correctional Facility on six misdemeanor charges. Officers charged Pugrad with a class C misdemeanor count of providing false personal information to an officer, two class B misdemeanor counts of interfering with arrest and use or possession of drugs or paraphernalia, and three class A misdemeanor counts of failure to stop at command of law enforcement, retail theft and possession of a controlled substance.
Thorne was charged with three misdemeanor charges, including two class B misdemeanor counts use or possession of drugs or paraphernalia and theft by receiving property as well as two class A misdemeanor counts of giving false personal information to an officer with the intent of being another, real person and possession of a controlled substance.
Gonzalez and Mattern were also arrested on misdemeanor charges. Law enforcement charged each with a class A misdemeanor count of possession of a controlled substance and two class B misdemeanor counts use or possession of drugs or paraphernalia and theft by receiving property.
All four individuals were also charged with a third degree felony count of forgery.
St. George Police Officer Tiffany Atkin told St. George News the U-Haul was impounded and the officer and Pugrad were treated for road rash.
St. George News Senior Reporter Mori Kessler contributed to this report.
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