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High-speed pursuit, crash leaves one dead in Las Cruces

J.R. Oppenheim
November 28, 2017 05:16 PM

LAS CRUCES, N.M. -- A man and woman who fled from a Border Patrol checkpoint in a stolen SUV caused a fatal crash in southern New Mexico Monday, according to New Mexico State Police.

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NMSP Lt. Elizabeth Armijo described a chaotic hours-long incident in Las Cruces that involved multiple high-speed pursuits, a carjacking and a collision with a motorcyclist. NMSP on Tuesday identified the suspects as Daniel Allen Lowell and Trista Marie Schlaefli, both of Colorado Springs, Colorado.

Las Cruces Police Department Public Information Officer Dan Trujillo said retired officer J.R. Stewart died in the crash.

"J.R. was quite possibly the most loved and respected officers our community has known," Trujillo said. "He served his country and community with honor, and volunteered much of his time to those organizations he held dear to his heart."

Authorities first responded around 2 p.m. at the Border Patrol checkpoint on I-10 west of Las Cruces. Armijo said a tan GMC pickup truck reported stolen from Colorado arrived and the male driver told agents he did not have identification. The woman inside the SUV reportedly had a stolen driver's license.

The SUV then took off when Border Patrol told the man to pull to a secondary lane. Border Patrol went after the stolen vehicle when, Armijo said, the two suspects carjacked a gray Toyota 4Runner at gunpoint on I-10 and headed toward Las Cruces.

However, Border Patrol lost contact with the suspects at Motel Boulevard. The carjacking victims told State Police officers they saw the tan SUV narrowly miss a semi-truck. The carjacking victims pulled over when the suspects stole their vehicle, Armijo said.

Las Cruces Police Department officers then caught up with the suspects on Walnut and Lohman around 5 p.m., engaging in another pursuit. Armijo said the chase reached speeds of 110 miles per hour.

The suspect drove south on the northbound lanes on I-25 when he turned the vehicle west through a barbed wire fence, Armijo said. That caused the vehicle to run into the motorcyclist, who later died at Mountain View Hospital.

"J.R. left a legacy in law enforcement and in pure goodness that is incomparable," Trujillo said. "We will miss him and will try to emulate his passion for life in all that we do."

NMSP officers apprehended the suspects at Las Alturas and Sotol Drive trying to carjack another vehicle, Armijo said.

Armijo said Lowell's criminal history has 18 previous charges, including vehicular homicide, child abuse, armed robbery, aggravated fleeing, assault and concealing identity. He had arrest warrants for attempted murder and other charges in Colorado.

Schlaefli's past includes similar charges, Armijo said.

Credits

J.R. Oppenheim

Copyright 2017 KOB-TV LLC, a Hubbard Broadcasting Company. All rights reserved

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