Teen crime spree covers four counties, hits Camp Verde

Justin Schutze

Justin Schutze

NORTHERN ARIZONA - Wednesday night, Coconino Sheriff's deputies were chasing three suspects in a stolen vehicle on State Route 87, north of the State Route 260 junction, when the driver of the SUV intentionally rammed a Coconino Sheriff's vehicle parked at the roadside. Two suspects were arrested, but a third suspect remained at large. He finally surrendered Thursday night,

The trio from Winslow is facing a book of charges after a crime spree over two wild weeks rife with burglaries, police chases, gun thefts and numerous other felonies. Four counties will have charges, plus Camp Verde and other local jurisdictions

It all began during Thanksgiving week when Coconino deputies were investigating four home burglaries in the Blue Ridge area, where the trio is alleged to have stolen alcohol and numerous firearms.

On Dec. 4, a tip sent Show Low Police to check suspicious men at Tate's Automotive Center in Show Low. The suspects had already fled, but officers found a pickup truck parked in front full of gas containers, siphoning hoses and tires taken from new vehicles. Police also recovered identification thought to belong to two suspects. The pickup is registered to one of the parents.

The next day, police say the two stole a Ford Expedition parked at a Show Low Church, picked up the third teen and drove around Winslow.

The suspects returned to Show Low the following day, abandoned the Ford Expedition and stole a 1995 Chevrolet work truck. They drove the truck to a Circle K and backed through the front window so they could steal alcohol and cigarettes, according to the report. Then, they returned to Tate's Auto Sales and stole a brand new 2011 Yukon Denali. They already had the car keys from the earlier burglary at Tate's. They drove both vehicles to a wooded area, abandoned the Chevy truck and set it on fire and drove back to the Circle K for more alcohol and cigarettes.

The suspects are suspected of six more home burglaries during the weekend, and the taking of more booze and guns.

Sunday, one teen drove the Denali to the home of a friend in Glendale where they sold some of the guns taken in the burglaries.

Show Low Police used the new vehicle's OnStar system to locate and disable the SUV, and Glendale Police went to investigate. Inside the Denali, Glendale Police found 20 firearms that are thought to have been stolen during earlier Blue Ridge burglaries.

The Winslow teens had attempted to leave the area in the Denali, but it wouldn't start and they fled on foot. So, they stole a 1999 Chevrolet Tahoe in Glendale and headed for Blue Ridge.

They stopped in Camp Verde after 10 p.m. Tuesday and allegedly stole a travel trailer, attaching it to the Chevrolet Tahoe. The trailer was taken from A-1 Mini Storage, west of the Yavapai County jail. A Camp Verde Marshal's Office deputy pulled the truck and trailer over near Wilshire Drive and SR 260 a few minutes later, because the trailer's brake and tail lights were not connected. But the three fled again, leading to a pursuit east on SR 260, tailed by CVMO and DPS officers.

A DPS patrolman attempted to pull over the vehicle, but it fled once again. While being pursued, one suspect climbed into the back of the Tahoe, rolled down the rear window and disconnected the travel trailer from the vehicle while it was in motion causing the trailer to swerve and go backwards on the highway, stopping when it careened into a guardrail. The DPS pursuit was shut down after losing sight of the vehicle on SR 87 at milepost 284.  The pursuit had spanned 36.7 miles at speeds over 80 mph.

The suspects are believed to have returned to the Blue Ridge after the pursuit and driven to a wooded area where the Tahoe struck several trees and eventually got stuck in a bar ditch.

They hiked from the SUV, allegedly burglarizing three more homes in Blue Ridge and Clints Well, taking more alcohol and firearms. They stole a Rhino utility vehicle and drove to Happy Jack Lodge, where it was abandoned, and they stole a Ford F150 pickup. As the suspects entered the city limits of Winslow, a Winslow Police officer tried to stop their vehicle but they fled with officers on their tail.

Navajo County Sheriff's Office deputies assisted when the chase left town limits, then Coconino deputies assumed the pursuit across the county line.

On State Route 87 at night, a Coconino Sheriff's Lieutenant pulled his vehicle to the shoulder, turned on the emergency lights and got out. When the suspect vehicle approached, the suspect driver drove across the traffic lanes to crash into the unoccupied patrol vehicle. Witnesses felt it was intentional. Both vehicles were left inoperable.

All three suspects got out and fled. An Arizona DPS Ranger Helicopter spotted two of the three suspects. Crew members spotlighted them and directed ground units to their location, where they were taken into custody.

The third suspect was not found at that time and was considered armed and dangerous. Coconino County Sheriff's detectives are investigating the possibility that one of the suspects fired several shots during the pursuit and that a round may have struck a Sheriff's vehicle.

Justin Schutze, 18, believed to be the vehicle driver, returned to his family's Winslow home. Thursday night he surrendered to police peacefully. He was wanted for aggravated assault on a police officer, felony theft, theft of firearms and felony flight.

Christopher Goetschel, 18, and a 17-year-old juvenile male, both from Winslow, were arrested on charges of count of theft of means of transportation and felony flight from law enforcement officers.

This case was referred to the Coconino County Attorney's Office for review and numerous additional felony charges are pending. Additional felony charges are expected from Navajo, Yavapai and Maricopa Counties plus local jurisdictions.

Anyone with information regarding any of the mentioned crimes is urged to call the Coconino County Sheriff's Office at (928) 774-4523 or 1-800-338-7888 or Coconino County Silent Witness at (928) 774-6111

Police say that at no time did the suspects have to forcibly enter any of the vehicles they took due to the fact that, with the exception of the Denali, all of the vehicles were left unlocked with the keys in the ignition.


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