On Thursday, February 14, 2019, Arizona Vehicle Theft Task Force (AVTTF) detectives received information about a 2001 Ford F250 pick-up truck that had been stolen from Gilbert. AVTTF detectives located the truck near 51st Avenue and Baseline Road just before 11:00 a.m.
An AZDPS Ranger helicopter crew tracked the stolen vehicle from the air while AZDPS detectives, and police officers from Goodyear and Gila River tracked the stolen vehicle from the ground. The suspect drove into a desert area of the Gila River Indian Community causing damage to the truck. During this time, the suspect nearly struck an unmarked VTTF vehicle and detective as an attempt to deploy stop sticks was made. Ultimately, the driver struck a tree and then fled on foot.
With the assistance of an AZDPS SWAT team and a Goodyear Police K9, the suspect was taken into custody at 3835 W. Bighorn, within the Gila River Indian Community.
The suspect driver, identified as 41-year-old Ernesto V. Sanchez, was booked into the Maricopa County Sheriff’s Office 4th Avenue Jail on the following charges:
• Theft of Means of Transportation
• Aggravated Assault
• Possession of Personal Use Marijuana
• Possession of Personal Use Dangerous Drugs
• Unlawful Flight
Two women traveling with Sanchez were booked on active misdemeanor warrants. They were identified as 30-year-old Kelly Villegas and 22-year-old Terri F. Bahe.
The Arizona Vehicle Theft Task Force (VTTF) provides a vital mission on behalf of the Arizona Automobile Theft Authority to reduce vehicle theft in Arizona by deterring criminal activity through effective and proactive enforcement, prosecution and public awareness programs. VTTF is substantially funded by an Annual Grant from the AATA –www.azwatchyourcar.com.
Learn more about VTTF at https://www.azdps.gov/about/programs/avttf