Colorado police: Man steals SUV with 4-year-old boy inside, leads officers on rush-hour chase

LONE TREE, Colo. – A dramatic car chase that crisscrossed the Denver area during the Wednesday morning commute started when a man stole an SUV with a 4-year-old boy inside and ended after he carjacked two other vehicles and struck a state trooper.

Ryan Stone, a 28-year-old wanted in a drug case, covered about 75 miles before he caused a multivehicle crash at an intersection in Lone Tree, south of Denver. He then ran across a parking lot before appearing to give up, lying face-down in the snow as officers pinned him to the ground.

Police said the boy, Allan Chavarria-Rodriguez, was found unharmed after Stone abandoned the SUV. The boy told the Longmont Times-Call that the roughly hour-long ride was fast, and he cried but didn’t speak to Stone as he drove.

Also during the chase, Stone struck a state trooper who was putting down stop sticks in a failed effort to capture him, authorities said. It’s unclear if Stone was trying to avoid the stop sticks when he hit the trooper, or if he deliberately ran over him. The trooper, Bellamann Hee, an eight-year-veteran of the department, was hospitalized in serious condition but was expected to make a full recovery, the state patrol said.

No one else was injured during the ordeal, which was televised live and for a time included the suspect driving the wrong way on a highway.

“This is a strange and crazy morning in Colorado,” Douglas County Sheriff David Weaver said.

Stone, who has an extensive criminal record, was taken to a hospital, in part to see whether he was high or drunk, police said.

It appeared at one point he threw something from one of the cars, authorities said. Police were searching for any weapons he might have had.

Longmont Police Department spokesman Jeff Satur said a warrant had been issued for Stone after he failed to appear in court earlier this month on a “dangerous drug” charge.

Stone’s girlfriend was stopped in an apparently stolen car in Longmont on Tuesday night, but Stone wasn’t with her, Satur said. Police determined Stone was suspected of stealing the vehicle she was driving.

The girlfriend, Julie Pawlak, was arrested for theft and possession of drug paraphernalia, among other offences, after police found syringes and glass pipes inside the vehicle.

The chase began when Stone stole the sport utility vehicle with the child inside at a gas station in Longmont, north of Denver, police said.

The boy’s mother went into the store, leaving the vehicle with the boy in it, and the suspect jumped in. He sped south on Interstate 25, where a State Patrol officer spotted the vehicle, Satur said.

Soon after the SUV was taken, television helicopters spotted a speeding vehicle matching its description. After about a half-hour, Stone stopped and carjacked a minivan and took off in the wrong direction on a highway.

Later, after apparently losing a tire on the minivan, he sideswiped a sedan, got out of the minivan and dragged the driver from the sedan. He drove off in the car and soon after, caused the crash at an intersection.

Stone then took off on foot, crossing a parking lot and running so wildly he lost his jacket. He struggled to jump a fence before police caught him.

Satur said the boy’s mother won’t face charges for momentarily leaving her son unattended. “She’s had enough of a traumatic experience today watching her son being kidnapped,” he said.

Police at times chased Stone but for the most part tracked him from a distance.

Colorado State Patrol spokesman Nate Reid said the highway patrol got involved about 7:15 a.m. It held back when the suspect was in congested areas, took up the chase again in Adams County, and held back again for safety reasons just before the suspect was caught. Reid couldn’t say how many officers were involved.

Police tried to strike a balance between quickly capturing Stone and keeping other drivers safe, Weaver said.

“This individual had to be stopped,” he said. “At all extremes, it’s safety, safety, safety.”

According to Arapahoe County court records, Stone was arrested Feb. 12 on suspicion of unlawful possession of drugs after he was stopped by an Aurora police officer on a traffic violation.

“Ryan appeared to be highly emotional and extremely agitated,” the officer, Jason Condrea, wrote in the report.

Condrea said he asked Stone why the truck he was driving was not properly registered, and Stone said his girlfriend just bought the truck and had not registered it. Condrea said he searched the truck after learning that Stone was under court order not to have alcohol or drugs. He said he found drugs in a speaker box and a panel and arrested Stone on drug charges. Stone insisted the drugs were not his.

According to court records, Stone failed to appear in court March 4, and a warrant was issued for his arrest.

Court records also show the Arapahoe County Sheriff’s Office stopped Stone in January and issued him a summons for possession of drug paraphernalia.


Associated Press writers Donna Bryson and Steven K. Paulson contributed to this report.