ST. GEORGE — A traffic stop of a vehicle reportedly driving erratically on Interstate 15 in Mohave County, Arizona, turned into a nearly hour-long pursuit, an assault on a deputy and a 100-foot tumble down a ravine that ultimately ended in the arrest of a Colorado couple Sunday night.
Shortly after 10 p.m. MST, a Mohave County Sheriff’s Deputy conducted a traffic stop on a 2013 Acura heading south on I-15 near Littlefield, Arizona when he observed the vehicle weaving and swerving across the roadway, “and basically driving erratically,” Mohave County Sheriff’s Office spokesperson Anita Mortensen said.
The deputy spoke to the driver, later identified as 32-year-old Mexi Mirela Cruz-Lopez, and noticed a man sleeping in the back seat of the vehicle.
Near the man, the deputy allegedly noticed several items of drug paraphernalia, which is when both occupants were told to exit the car and a search was conducted.
As the two suspects were being detained by police, the passenger, later identified as Jouse Misael Espinoza-Yanez, also of Aurora, Colorado, “decided to punch the deputy in the face and then he fled on foot,” Mortensen said, adding that neither suspect was handcuffed when the alleged assault on the deputy took place.
The deputy started after the suspect, but quickly stopped when he started running toward traffic on the interstate. Instead, the deputy returned to where his patrol vehicle was parked, which is when he noticed that the driver had gotten back in the vehicle and driven off, and the deputy began a pursuit.
At some point, Cruz-Lopez picked up Yanez, who was still running on foot, and both continued south on the interstate, exiting the freeway multiple times. At one point, the Acura took the emergency turnout and headed north on I-15 for a few miles before the driver made a U-turn on a second turnout and returned to the southbound side of the highway.
“That vehicle was going southbound, then northbound, then back and forth,” Mortensen said.
As the pursuit continued, the deputy observed the suspects “throwing items out of the window,” and once the car approached milepost 4, the driver attempted to make another U-turn to head north. But, instead, she lost control of the car and crashed in the median.
Both suspects jumped from the vehicle and fled the scene on foot, while the deputy requested that emergency medical personnel be dispatched to the scene.
The deputy closed in on the fleeing driver first. As he was attempting to place handcuffs on the woman, she allegedly kicked him, which is when he deployed the taser. Once subdued, the suspect was arrested and detained by police.
Meanwhile, the passenger, who was still running from the deputy in “pitch darkness,” unknowingly ran off a 100-foot embankment and tumbled to the bottom where he was held at gunpoint until his assisted return to the top, Mortensen said.
Yanez told emergency personnel that he suffered a snake bite when he fell down the embankment, but EMT’s were unable to find any evidence of a bite, “or any other serious injury,” Mortensen said.
Shortly thereafter, both were medically cleared and transported to the Mohave County Jail in Kingman Arizona.
Both suspects were booked into jail where each face one count of aggravated assault, resisting arrest and possession of paraphernalia. In addition, Yanez also faces one count of possession of dangerous drugs and escape, since he was being detained when he allegedly ran from police, in addition to an immigration’s hold. Cruz-Lopez also faces one count of unlawful flight and reckless driving.
The deputy involved finished out his shift, Mortensen said, despite being punched and then kicked by the suspects.
“That deputy made it out okay,” she said. “He’s a pretty tough guy.”
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