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Three-county car chase details remain unavailable

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Posted: Tuesday, July 17, 2012 8:50 am

Although sheriffs from Chaffee, Lake and Saguache counties provided additional information Monday about the 80-mile car chase through three counties Saturday, full details remain unavailable.

The car chase ensued after Lake County sheriff’s deputies attempted to contact Jacob Vanderbeek, 18, Leadville, on a traffic violation.

Instead of chasing him, the officers decided to make an arrest warrant.

However, the chase restarted after Vanderbeek was seen honking his car horn outside the sheriff’s office.

The chase involved six law enforcement agencies and covered more than 80 miles before ending near Villa Grove when Vanderbeek was fatally shot by a Buena Vista police officer.

Buena Vista Police Chief Jimmy Tidwell said, “As in any incident like this, the officer is on paid administrative leave, and Colorado Bureau of Investigation will give a full report as soon as the investigation is over.”

Chaffee County Sheriff Pete Palmer said at 5:30 a.m., the time at which the chase occurred, no one is on duty in Chaffee County, so the dispatch center called deputies at their homes to respond.

Palmer said, “The county is pretty unprotected for four hours – it’s frustrating for us to have to get deputies out of bed. They could always not answer their phones, but they have a sense of duty.”

He said Undersheriff John Spezze and at least two deputies participated in the chase.

Spezze said he was the third car in the chase.

“I can assure you, everything that was done was justified,” he said.

Palmer said, “Somebody used stop strips in Poncha Springs, either us or another agency.”

He said while they didn’t slow down the chase, they did stop an innocent car.

“I don’t know the details but (the sticks) worked quite well. The county will be paying for the tow bill and four new tires,” Palmer said.

He explained that Buena Vista officers initially met Vanderbeek on the north end of town “and there was a confrontation of some kind.”

Palmer did not know what the confrontation entailed.

Palmer said the chase eventually stopped as a result of a tactical move by Colorado State Patrol troopers near Villa Grove.

Colorado State Patrol Sgt. Marshall Schwarz said the tactical vehicle intervention maneuver causes the suspect vehicle to spin, which allows troopers to position their vehicles and box it in.

Palmer said he arrived on scene 10 minutes after the chase ended.

Saguache County Sheriff Mike Norris said one of his deputies deployed stop sticks but the chase ended before they reached his position.

Norris said he was out of town when the chase happened but said he read the July 15 story in the Denver Post.

“From what I understand, (the article) was so far off base it’s unreal,” he said.

Norris said he doesn’t know how many shots were fired in his county, but said “obviously at least one.”

Saguache deputies assisted mostly with perimeter security, he said.

Whenever an incident involves an officer shooting, it’s deferred to the Colorado Bureau of Investigation, Norris said.

Susan Medina, CBI spokesperson, wouldn’t comment on specifics of the incident because the investigation is in progress.

She said agents have “a number of interviews” and are working to determine and develop a timeline.

While an agreement was made allowing Lake County to be the information source on this incident, Sheriff Rod Fenske said he isn’t permitted to say much because of the ongoing investigation.

What he did say was that two of his deputies followed the chase to Villa Grove but let Buena Vista officers take the lead from there.

He said it could be a few weeks before all the reports are complete and they release any findings.

Before the chase entered Buena Vista, he said he had his deputies pull back to see if the pursuit would stop, but it did not.

Deputies didn’t chase Vanderbeek initially because the traffic violation was minor and they knew him, so they decided to do an arrest warrant instead, he explained.

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