‘Strong odor’ in downtown St. George leads to arrest of Texas fugitive wanted for kidnapping, robbery

File photo courtesy of the Utah Attorney General's Office, St. George News

ST. GEORGE — A suspicious odor and false identity claims led to an early-morning arrest over the weekend of a fugitive wanted out of Texas for aggravated robbery and kidnapping, in addition to multiple charges filed in Washington County.

2016 file photo for illustrative purposes only of St. George Police officers at a scene in St. George, Utah, Dec. 18, 2016 | St. George News

An officer patrolling the Main Street area became suspicious when he came upon the “strong odor” of marijuana smoke coming from a stairwell near the rear entrance of the former Kmart shortly after 3 a.m. Sunday in St. George. 

The officer noticed a man sitting on the stairs who quickly came to his feet as soon as the patrol unit reversed direction. He started acting suspicious as the officer approached, according to charging documents filed with the court.

When asked, the man identified himself as Kevin Cook and said he was waiting for a bus to San Antonio, Texas. The officer noted the man appeared nervous when questioned about the marijuana smoke, and during the encounter, the man’s “story changed multiple times,” which further raised the officer’s suspicions. 

The suspect was unable to find his identification card and instead, he pointed in the direction of the bus stop where he said he had left his luggage that contained his personal belongings, including his ID card. 

When the officer ran a records check on the name provided, it returned as a non-found. Meanwhile, the man’s girlfriend, who was on the phone with the suspect at the time, provided a different name and date of birth that also failed to return any results. 

The suspect consented to a search of his person, the report states, during which the officer recovered a debit card under the name of Cook as well as a Florida ID card and a second debit card issued to an individual with the last name of Jenkins.

When asked, the suspect said both cards belonged to his brother, which is when he was detained until officers could verify his identity. 

In the meantime, the officer spoke to the suspect’s girlfriend who was still on the phone, and who said her partner’s name was Andrew Jenkins, which was different from what she had told police minutes earlier. 

The suspect’s physical description did not match what was listed on the ID card, and the address he provided was different from the current one listed for that individual. 

When confronted with the discrepancies, the suspect said his real name was Chaz Lecore Griffin, 23, out of San Antonio, and he told officers he had warrants out of Texas. 

The officer then learned through a records check that Griffin, in fact, had two active Texas warrants — both of which were extraditable from Utah.  The first was issued on an aggravated kidnapping case that involved the use of a weapon, while the second was issued on an aggravated robbery case filed in Bexar County.

That case was filed after Griffin was arrested by officers with the San Antonio Police Department in connection with an armed robbery reported in September 2018, as indicated by court records filed in Bexar County. 

A review of court records also revealed a felony case filed after Griffin was arrested by the Bexar County Sheriff’s Office following a family fight that resulted in a strangulation charge filed against the suspect in January 2021.

Griffin was arrested by St. George Police officers at the scene on the warrants while the suspect’s luggage was inventoried prior to transport. 

In one of the bags, officers recovered a firearm that was modified with a switch that gave the gun automatic firing capabilities. The firearm’s serial number appeared to have been tampered with, leading the officer to suspect it may have been stolen or was illegal. 

Officers also found a large amount of cash in the same bag as the firearm, along with several bags of suspected marijuana that appeared to be individually packaged for distribution. Also in the bag was more than $1,680 in cash, which the evidence suggests was money made “from illegal enterprises,” the report alleged.  

During an interview, the suspect told officers the identification card under the name of Jenkins was fake and said it was made for him while he was in Las Vegas, Nevada. 

Stock image of San Antonio Police patrol vehicle ?| Photo courtesy of Flickr, St. George News

He also reportedly told officers the bank cards he had on him were stolen. 

The suspect was transported and booked into jail in Washington County facing one second-degree felony count of possession of a dangerous weapon by a restricted person. He also faces possession of a forgery device and unlawful acquisition of a financial card, each a third-degree felony, as well as three misdemeanor charges that include providing police with false personal information of an actual person and possession of marijuana and paraphernalia. 

Griffin is also being held in jail on the two first-degree felony no-bail warrants issued out of Texas. He remains in custody on a no-bail hold at this time. 

Copyright St. George News, SaintGeorgeUtah.com LLC, 2024, all rights reserved.

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