Stolen vehicle pursuit ends in manhunt, arrest of murder suspect
A stolen vehicle pursuit that turned into a foot pursuit led to the eventual capture of murder suspect Jeremiah Cleveland, including three other suspects, on Wednesday evening.
During the pursuit, Navajo Nation Police officers who were chasing Cleveland and the three other alleged car thieves followed them into rugged, mountainous snow and ice-covered terrain that began by milepost 37 on Navajo Route 12, south of Navajo, said Chief Phillip Francisco.
A helicopter from the San Juan County Sheriff’s Department in Aztec, New Mexico, was called to assist in the search for Cleveland and the three alleged car theft suspects.
When three of the suspects were apprehended, the manhunt was going to be called off when it was discovered three of the officers who were assisting in the search were lost, Francisco said.
The pursuit quickly turned into a search and rescue mission.
Dozens of officers, including Navajo Rangers and Navajo Nation Department of Fish & Wildlife officers, held a quick briefing at the former Marketplace parking lot before splitting into two teams.
Temperatures, combined with a 10 mph wind, quickly began dropping. By that time, the officers had been lost for about four hours.
After about an hour of searching, a command post at the former grocery store parking lot received a message that personnel with the Navajo Pine Volunteer Fire Department found the officers.
About 30 to 45 minutes later, Francisco and Deputy Chief Darryl Noon met with them before they were transported to the Tsehootsooi Medical Center in Fort Defiance.
“They’re in good condition, good spirits,” Francisco said. “No other injuries. So, they’re gonna be taken in for the hydration.”
Of the three who were caught and arrested, Cleveland was not among them. He was later apprehended in Fort Defiance at the Rio Puerco Housing late Wednesday evening.
Police say a handgun was found in the stolen vehicle. The investigation is continuing.