A La Plata County man was arrested Monday on suspicion of attempted robbery, leading police on a 20-mile chase and a multi-hour foot pursuit north of Bayfield.
Michael Fisher Wilson, 20, was being held Monday night at the La Plata County Jail on suspicion of motor-vehicle theft, attempted robbery, felony eluding and burglary, said Bayfield Marshal Joe McIntyre.
He is also suspected of criminal mischief and felony menacing for driving a stolen car into a Bayfield Marshal’s Office vehicle.
Events began about 8 a.m. Monday at the Grocery Store at Bayfield, 381 E. Colorado Drive, where Wilson waited out front for the store to open, McIntyre said.
The owner, Paul Peeples, opened the store, and Wilson went inside. He walked around, picked up a bottle of milk and a screwdriver, McIntyre said. While Peeples was ringing him up, Wilson said: “I hate to do this Paul, but I need you to open the cash drawer. I’m going to take the money and then I’m going to lock you up in the freezer.”
Peeples, who recognized the man, refused to cooperate, telling him to go call his dad. Wilson then left the store. He never showed a weapon, Peeples said.
“It was the strangest thing,” Peeples said. “I hope they catch him, and he’s OK.”
Dispatchers received two calls: one from the store and a 911 call from Wilson, who said he just tried to rob the Grocery Store and wanted to turn himself in. He borrowed a woman’s cellphone at Pine Valley Church to make the call.
A deputy responded to the church, but as he approached, he saw a tan or silver Honda Accord “kind of miss the driveway” going onto County Road 501, and decided to follow the car, which came back registered to Wilson’s mother.
“We knew at that point that we had the right vehicle,” McIntyre said.
The deputy pursued the car north on County Road 501. The driver reached speeds of 80 mph and made a couple of detours on side roads, only to make a U-turn and continue heading north on County Road 501 toward Vallecito Reservoir.
“He was swerving, crossing the double-yellow line into the southbound lane of traffic,” McIntyre said.
Deputies decided to end the pursuit, or at least back off, because his driving behavior became too erratic and dangerous, McIntyre said.
On one of his side detours, Wilson spun the car in circles in an open area before heading back to County Road 501. While returning to the main road, he drove directly toward a Bayfield Marshal’s unit, and at the last minute, swerved right, McIntyre said. The rear of his vehicle struck the driver’s side quarter panel of the marshal’s office vehicle.
“At this point, I made the determination that we needed to try to take him into custody,” McIntyre said. “We initiated the pursuit back up just because of the danger to the public and because he’d struck one of our vehicles.”
But deputies backed off again and lost sight of the vehicle.
They located the car abandoned on the side of the road in the 2400 block of County Road 500, a couple of miles north of Vallecito Reservoir.
It was later learned the driver entered someone’s home and attempted to steal a car but was unsuccessful. The occupant of the home was not home at the time, McIntyre said.
A Vallecito resident, who declined to be named, told the Pine River Times she was at home when she heard a thump downstairs. She went downstairs to find Wilson inside her home. The woman, a retired mental health specialist with state probation, said she talked to Wilson for several minutes, persuaded him to leave her home, then called police.
Law enforcement did a “reverse 911” call to everyone within a 1-mile radius of the suspect’s car to warn residents and advise them to stay inside their homes.
Several hours later, a resident called police to report he could see someone matching the suspect’s description. The resident stayed inside his home and guided police to the man’s location, McIntyre said.
Wilson was arrested at 2:13 p.m.
The 2009 Honda Accord was stolen the previous night from his mother, McIntyre said.
The Bayfield Marshal’s Office knows Wilson “quite well,” McIntyre said.
“I’m glad that we got him into custody,” McIntyre said. “Thank you to the residents up there in Vallecito who received those messages and helped us out in tracking him and locating him.”
Bayfield Marshal Joe McIntyre wants to hear from anyone driving on County Road 501 Monday morning who was run off of the road.
“If any drivers were traveling southbound during pursuit yesterday and they were run off the roadway, we’d like them to contact us,” McIntyre said. The office is trying to identify potential victims or witnesses of the incidents.
The marshal’s office can be reached at 884-9636.
Pine River Times Managing Editor Melanie Mazur contributed to this article.