CEDAR CITY — Police have apprehended two people suspected of leading officers on a high-speed chase through two counties Tuesday afternoon.
The incident began shortly after noon in Washington City when a police officer attempted to pull over the vehicle for a minor traffic violation, Washington City Police Lt. Kory Klotz told Cedar City News.
“The suspects fled at that point and we discontinued our pursuit shortly after starting,” Klotz said, adding that Washington police did relay information about the vehicle and its direction of travel to other law enforcement agencies to the north.
The suspect vehicle, a metallic beige Cadillac Deville sedan, was next spotted by Utah Highway Patrol troopers on northbound Interstate 15 near mile marker 44 shortly after the attempt-to-locate bulletin went out.
“Troopers attempted to stop the vehicle and it fled,” said UHP Lt. Randy Riches, who added that they soon terminated the pursuit due to public safety concerns.
The suspect vehicle reached speeds as high as 115 mph as it traveled north toward Cedar City, authorities said. The vehicle had a rear Florida license plate but the tag was reported to have been stolen.
Iron County Sheriff’s deputies reportedly attempted to lay down spike strips to stop or slow the car as it traveled along I-15 but were unsuccessful.
When the vehicle reached Cedar City, its driver managed to exit the interstate, most likely at Exit 59, at which point the vehicle headed east through town until it was seen on state Route 14 as it began heading east up Cedar Canyon. About 5 miles up the canyon, the car turned off SR-14 and began traveling up the road that leads to the “C” Mountain overlook and the mountain community of Cedar Highlands.
Just past the overlook, with officers in pursuit, the suspect vehicle then turned onto the rough and winding dirt road that leads through the Cedar Highlands subdivision and back down the mountain toward Cedar City.
But just ahead of the suspects’ car, additional law enforcement officers had already arrived from the other direction and were waiting. Deputies from Iron County Sheriff’s Office, along with officers from Cedar City Police Department, U.S. Bureau of Land Management and Utah Highway Patrol, had stationed themselves at the bottom of Greens Lake Road.
“As the vehicle came down the mountain, deputies deployed spike stripes to prevent any further pursuits from occurring,” Sheriff’s Lt. Del Schlosser wrote in a news release sent out to media outlets Tuesday evening.
After hitting the spike strips, the vehicle continued for approximately 1 mile until it came to a stop on the dirt road with at least three of its tires flattened.
When the vehicle stopped, a male suspect, later identified as 29-year-old Justin Hinton, exited the car and fled the scene on foot, while a second individual, a female later identified as 49-year-old Rhonda McMurtrey, remained in the vehicle and was later taken into custody without incident, Schlosser said in the news release.
At that point, officers initiated a foot pursuit for the male subject, he said.
At around 1:30 p.m., a reverse 911 warning alert went out to area residents’ cell phones and email addresses warning them about the incident and asking them to be on the lookout for the suspect who was described as possibly being armed and dangerous. At least one local school sent out alert messages to parents but did not go into lockdown.
The manhunt continued for about two hours, with officers from multiple agencies responding, including Iron County Sheriff’s Office, Cedar City Police, Utah Highway Patrol, U.S. Bureau of Land Management, Southern Utah University Police and Utah Division of Wildlife Resources.
Additionally, a Southern Utah University Aviation helicopter assisted with the search.
Then, about two hours after the search began, Hinton was positively identified as the suspect and the active search was called off, the Sheriff’s Office stated.
However, less than two hours after that, at around 5:15 p.m., an area resident reported seeing the suspect outside near a residence in the Shurtz Canyon area and notified authorities, the news release stated. Hinton was subsequently arrested and taken into custody without further incident.
Before being taken to jail, Hinton was transported to Cedar City Hospital for treatment of “minor injuries he sustained while running through the terrain while fleeing law enforcement,” the news release stated.
As of 9:30 p.m. Tuesday, McMurtrey’s booking information was listed on the Iron County Jail website, stating that she had been booked at 5:48 p.m. on suspicion of receiving or possessing a stolen vehicle. However, no booking photo for McMurtrey had yet been posted, nor had Hinton’s booking information or photo.
This is a developing story.
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