THATCHER — A high-speed pursuit that originated in Thatcher ended south of Safford when the suspect’s vehicle crashed into a mesquite tree early Saturday morning.
Three suspects were taken into custody and booked into the Graham County Jail on multiple counts, including the alleged driver, Xavier Michael Garcia, 25, as well as passengers Eddie Brian Carr, 38, and Susan Bejarano, 26.
According to a Thatcher Police report, officers were staking out a residence in the 3500 block of W. Main Street they believed to be involved in selling drugs when they noticed a black, 2012 Nissan Altima pull into the residence and leave shortly thereafter at about midnight. As an officer attempted to follow the vehicle and retrieve its license plate number, the Altima sped up and eluded the officer.
A second Thatcher officer then saw the suspect’s vehicle run a red light as Garcia turned eastbound onto Main Street from Third Avenue.
The Altima then abruptly avoided another Thatcher officer who was at the intersection of Main Street and Second Avenue and turned southbound onto Second Avenue. Garcia then turned eastbound onto Church Avenue and then southbound onto First Avenue, where he reached speeds exceeding 110 mph in a 35 mph zone, according to the officer who was attempting to keep up with him.
As Garcia headed east down Golf Course Road, Thatcher and Safford units attempted to corner him, but he skirted the roadblock at the intersection of 20th Avenue and Golf Course Road by recklessly traveling through the Safford RV Park and out its eastern side onto 20th Avenue.
Now with Thatcher and Safford units involved in the chase, Garcia entered the jurisdiction of the Arizona Department of Public Safety and turned southbound onto U.S. Highway 191.
Garcia then entered the jurisdiction of the Graham County Sheriff’s Office as he turned off the highway eastbound onto Quail Trail. At that time, additional Safford and Thatcher units set up stop sticks at the intersection of Stockton Road and Powerline Road.
Garcia soon arrived and allegedly swerved at the officers who were putting out the stop sticks and yelled expletives at them. That was when he was positively identified by a Safford officer who had previous contacts with Garcia.
The Safford officer drew his handgun as one of the Altima’s rear tires was punctured, and he wasn’t able to remove the stop sticks prior to the arrival of another Safford officer, who then had to disengage from the pursuit due to his flattened tire.
The damaged tire didn’t stop Garcia, however, who continued his flight onto Armory Road, where he again swerved to hit another Thatcher officer’s vehicle, according to a police report. The officer advised he was forced to quickly accelerate to avoid a head-on collision with the suspect.
Garcia then made his way northbound onto U.S. Highway 191 before heading westbound on an unmarked dirt road. He then drove through the desert into a residential area and onto Morris Lane, where the flight was finally grounded when he crashed into a mesquite tree southwest of the City of Safford Mesa Yard.
The three occupants fled from the scene but were quickly tracked down by multiple pursuing officers as the suspects hid in various parts of the desert. An inventory of the vehicle yielded several items of drug paraphernalia and a black 12-gauge pump action shotgun.
During interrogation, Bejarano allegedly advised Garcia was driving and that she used a flashlight to attempt to distract officers so they could escape. She was booked into the jail on a single charge of hindering prosecution.
While at the jail, a corrections officer located a small baggie containing methamphetamine in the front pocket of Carr. He was then booked into the jail on charges of promoting prison contraband, hindering prosecution and misconduct involving weapons.
Garcia was booked on charges of unlawful flight from pursuing law enforcement, aggravated assault on a police officer, misconduct involving weapons, possession of drug paraphernalia and multiple warrants.