By Wendy Corr, Cowboy State Daily
Wyoming law enforcement officers got a hand from Mother Nature in apprehending a car thief.
Ending a multi-state crime spree, a young man from Montana was finally captured when his stolen vehicle (suspected to be the fourth that he had swiped in a two-week period) was disabled by spike strips after a high-speed chase with law enforcement officers in Park County.
Wyoming authorities first became aware that a car thief was on the loose when an abandoned 2004 Ford Ranger with New Mexico plates was found stuck in a drift by the Wyoming Highway Patrol.
They and other first responders had been helping motorists dig out from the snow that had been piled up by high winds on Monday, February 22.
According to affidavits filed by Wyoming Highway Patrol Troopers, the pickup had been reported missing in Harding County, New Mexico.
The alleged culprit, 27 year old Garret Bailey of Butte, Montana, led Highway Patrol troopers and Park County Sheriff’s deputies on a high-speed chase Tuesday night, the 23rd, before he was apprehended in yet another stolen vehicle.
Court documents allege that Bailey had lifted an SUV that was left running in the Blair’s parking lot in Powell; then he attempted to elude the police in the stolen Ford Edge at speeds of up to 122 miles per hour. The chase only ended after Sheriff’s Deputies deployed spike strips which flattened the vehicle’s tires south of Cody.
Bailey’s crime spree actually began, according to Highway Patrol Lieutenant Lee Pence, in Montana – he drove a stolen vehicle from that state to New Mexico, where he was initially apprehended.
However, the vehicle’s owner decided not to press charges, and Bailey walked free. But another vehicle was loaned to him, which he ran off with and wrecked; and then decided that his next hot ride would be in a government vehicle from Harding County.
He headed north in that Ford pickup, and was home free – until that Wyoming blizzard stopped him in his tracks.
After his arrest, Bailey told Powell Police Investigator Chris Wallace that a “friend of a friend” in New Mexico let him “borrow” the truck to go see his kids in Butte, Montana (later admitting that he stole the pickup, which had the keys in it, from outside a building) – but he was forced to abandon the vehicle when he hit the snowbank on February 21st.
He was given a ride – and a room at the Cody Legacy Inn – by a concerned citizen, who picked him up the next day and gave him a ride to Powell, where he acquired lodging at the Super 8. Bailey said he needed a ride to Cody, and when he saw the Ford Edge idling in the parking lot at Blair’s, he took it.
After being tipped off about the stolen Ford Edge, an officer from the Cody Police Department, several Park County Sheriff’s Deputies, and two Wyoming Highway Patrol troopers caught up with Bailey just northeast of Cody.
Law Enforcement vehicles boxed him in just outside the Cody city limits, but Bailey charged forward, almost hitting Deputy Ethan Robinson head-on before swerving, and leading multiple units on a high speed chase (at one point clocking 122 miles per hour) into and out of the Oregon Basin oil field. The chase finally ended when deputies laid out spike strips to flatten the tires of the stolen vehicle.
Deputy Robinson says when they finally apprehended him, Bailey at first told authorities that another person was driving, but ran away – but he couldn’t provide a description of the fictitious driver, and no sign of another suspect was found.
Bailey did try to alter his physical appearance by stripping down to his long johns and taking off the sweatshirt and coat that he had been wearing when security cameras caught him driving off in the Ford Edge, but those items were found in the stolen car.
Bailey’s blood alcohol content was over three times the legal limit at the time of his arrest – it was recorded at .27 when he was booked into the Park County Detention Center.
As of Monday, March 1st, Bailey is being held in the Park County Detention Center in Cody on a $75,000 cash-only bond, on five different charges: two counts of theft ($1000 in value or more); one count of property destruction; one count of fleeing or eluding police; one count of reckless endangering; and one count of driving while under the influence of alcohol and controlled substances. He was seen by Circuit Court Judge Bruce Waters on Friday, February 26, and will have his preliminary hearing on Friday, March 5th.