Private pilot helps officers locate suspect fleeing during alleged kidnapping

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ST. GEORGE — A Washington City man is in jail facing kidnapping and other charges following a pursuit that ended in a remote area off Navajo Drive near Bloomington early Sunday morning. The arrest comes thanks to a civilian pilot who tracked the suspect’s route and relayed that information to authorities.

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Police arrested 23-year-old Colton David Richmond and transported him to Purgatory Correctional Facility, where he was booked into jail facing multiple charges, including first-degree felony kidnapping, for allegedly holding the passenger in his vehicle against her will as he threatened and assaulted her.

According to the probable cause statement filed in support of the arrest, Richmond also faces three third-degree felony offenses, including evading, possession of a controlled substance and a dangerous weapons charge, along with misdemeanor charges of reckless driving, possession of paraphernalia, driving on a denied license and interfering with an emergency call.

The charges stem from an incident that began shortly after midnight Sunday when an officer was stopped on a red light at the intersection of Black Ridge Drive and Bluff Street in St. George and noticed a silver Volkswagen accelerate quickly through the intersection.

The officer followed as the Volkswagen cut across all lanes of travel “without signaling or showing any concern for other vehicles,” the officer noted, adding that the vehicle entered Interstate 15 heading south and continuing to weave and drifting in and out of the travel lane, indicating that the driver may be impaired.

Richmond quickly exited the interstate at Brigham Road and continued through the roundabout as the officer followed and activated his emergency lights, which is when the driver made a U-turn, reportedly looking directly into the officer’s eyes as he did so.

When the officer turned around to follow the car, the driver enter the second roundabout going in the opposite direction as it continued into oncoming traffic. The officer also reported seeing a woman in the passenger seat who kept looking at him through the rear window as he followed the car heading south on Pioneer Road.

The car reached speeds of more than 70 mph during the pursuit, and Richmond reportedly pulled off the shoulder multiple times, appearing as though he was going to stop for police but instead accelerated away from the officer. The report also states the driver continued drifting into oncoming traffic as officers were attempting to get the vehicle stopped.

Officers were advised by emergency dispatch that a woman called 911 advising there were children inside of the fleeing car. The woman then hung up quickly before making a second call to 911 using a different cell phone and told emergency dispatch the driver was not pulling over and she was afraid he would he would continue fleeing as long as police continued following the car.

Emergency dispatch also advised officers that sounds of a struggle could be heard coming from inside of the car, the report states, adding that dispatchers could hear the woman asking for help.

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The pursuit led toward Bloomington, where the driver turned onto Navajo Drive and continued past where the pavement ended.

The officer lost sight of the suspect as both vehicles went around a large curve with dust flying in all directions, and without being able to see through the dust, the officer went off the road and his vehicle was disabled. However, emergency dispatch advised the officer that a civilian pilot had called in and was relaying information on the suspect’s location.

Minutes later, the pilot told emergency dispatch the Volkswagen had stopped and the driver took off running. The officer stated that as he believed there were children in the suspect’s vehicle, he set off on foot and began yelling as he approached the Volkswagen. He found a woman in the passenger’s seat crying hysterically. When the officer asked about the children, the passenger reportedly told him there were no children in the car and that Richmond had held a knife to her throat and told her to call 911 back and tell them to terminate the pursuit.

The woman said she panicked and made up the story about children being in the car. She also said that earlier that evening, the suspect began acting “very weird” as they were leaving the McDonald’s parking lot on Bluff Street, and then she saw the officer near the Maverik as the Volkswagen continued towards the interstate.

As the officer was attempting to stop the car, the woman said Richmond asked if he should stop or go, which is when she told him to stop, which he ignored. She also said that during the pursuit, she attempted to pull the emergency brake several times to get the car to stop, which only made the suspect angry, and he started smacking her in the face and yelling at her to stop.

The woman also said after she made the first call to 911, the suspect took her cell phone and threw it out the window, which is why she made the second call for help using a different phone.

In the meantime, officers from multiple agencies joined in the search for the suspect, scouring the remote area on foot until one of the officers spotted the suspect down a small embankment hiding in vegetation.

“At that point the suspected peacefully surrendered, avoiding any force,” the report states. “And was safely taken into custody.”

A records check revealed the suspect had a no-bail warrant that was issued by the Board of Pardons, as well as multiple prior arrests and drug convictions within the last seven years.

During a search of the Volkswagen, officer found a large black case containing syringes, including one that was full of suspected heroin, as well as a digital scale, a grinder and plastic baggies consistent with drug distribution.

Officers were unable to find any documentation identifying the owner of the Volkswagen. The woman told officers she did not own the car, and she was only in it to get a ride back to Cedar City.

Richmond was arrested and transported to Purgatory Correctional Facility where he was booked into jail on the no-bail warrant.

Ed. Note: A new Utah law generally prohibits the release of arrest booking photos until after a conviction is obtained.

This report is based on statements from court records, 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.

Copyright St. George News, LLC, 2021, all rights reserved.

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