By Darrell Todd Maurina: CNJ staff writer
A Clovis man led police on a 26-minute chase through city streets early Saturday morning after shoplifting under $20 worth of food from a gas station, according to Clovis police.
According to reports, the 38-year-old Clovis man took a number of food items into the bathroom of an Allsup’s at the 700 block of 21st Street about 2:20 a.m., at which time the clerk called police to report a possible shoplifting in progress. The man left the gas station and said he hadn’t stolen anything, but the clerk saw the red label of a bacon pack wrapper in his coat.
Sgt. Dan Aguilar of the Clovis Police Department pulled into the store parking lot about the same time the man was trying to leave in his car. Aguilar pulled the car over and walked up to the driver’s side window, at which time the driver put the car in gear and refused orders to stop. Aguilar grabbed the driver’s clothes but let go as the driver backed up, fearing he would get dragged by the car.
According to police reports, the pursuit ranged all the way from 18th Street south to L. Casillas Boulevard and from Pile Street to Beta Street at speeds ranging up to 50 mph. During the chase, the driver failed to stop at 49 stop signs and two red lights until police were able to use spikes near the corner of Hull and 11th Street to puncture his car’s tires.
The driver continued to flee on foot but was tackled by officers on the 500 block of Merriwether, near his home.
Police booked the driver for shoplifting less than $250, aggravated assault on a police officer with a deadly weapon, felony evading by vehicle, and misdemeanor resisting or evading an officer. According to Curry County Adult Detention Center officials, he was still in jail Monday afternoon in lieu of a $17,000 cash or surety bond.
Sgt. Chris Kinley said Clovis police normally wouldn’t have pursued a shoplifting suspect due to the danger of a high speed police chase through town but did so because a different case had been called in at almost the same time. Officers thought the man had been guilty of a more serious crime, Kinley said.
“At first we thought it was an aggravated assault call that came in at the same time, and that’s why it went on as long as it did,” Kinley said.
Lt. Mike Ingram said an added factor was the driver’s endangerment of an officer.
“Apparently Sgt. Aguilar felt he was going to be dragged,” said Lt. Mike Ingram. “It escalated the incident into a felony offense. He obviously showed no concern for the public.”
“Normally we wouldn’t pursue on a misdemeanor because of these issues,” said Ingram. “Sgt. Aguilar felt it was necessary to stop this subject because of the danger this guy was imposing on the public safety.”