sheriff's award

All's well that ends well: John Toumbs of Montrose, middle, with San Miguel County Sheriff Bill Masters, left, and Deputy Michael Donnellon, was honored Thursday with the San Miguel County Sheriff's Office Heroism Award after assisting a deputy in pulling a driver from a burning vehicle in March. (Photo courtesy of San Miguel County Sheriff’s Office)

The normally serene San Miguel river canyon, the winding stretch of burbling river and red rock walls between Norwood Hill and Placerville, was the scene of a high-speed car chase Sunday morning as law enforcement pursued a fleeing suspect through the area. By late afternoon, Bruce Seagrave, 47, of Denver was detained in the San Miguel County Jail on charges of eluding the police, the theft of the vehicle he had been driving and other charges, along with multiple outstanding warrants for his arrest. A 37-year-old woman from Grand Junction was also apprehended at the scene and later released, according to officials.

“It was a great team effort, and I'm grateful that we were able to apprehend him,” said San Miguel County Sheriff Bill Masters of the multi-agency effort. “People can’t get away with acting like that in our county.”

The dramatic pursuit began shortly before 10 a.m. Sunday, when a Colorado State Patrol trooper reported that due to safety concerns he had ceased pursuit of a car driving recklessly down the highway from Norwood Hill at speeds in excess of 100 mph. Deputies responded to the scene, locating the vehicle where it had been abandoned and hidden behind a dirt berm. The vehicle, which had been reported stolen in October in Wheatridge, had “We don’t stop for the police” written in marker on the vehicle’s ceiling.

A team of officers accompanied by a K-9 unit from Montrose followed footprints into the steep terrain on the north side of the highway, tracking the two fleeing individuals across the rugged cliffs before losing the tracks. A drone scanned the mountainous terrain from above. As the hours of the search wore on, the fugitives, who had seemed to be taking care to leave minimal tracks, grew more reckless.

“They were seemingly pretty careful at first; it was a difficult trail to follow,” Masters said. “Then they got a little sloppy. They left items behind. We found car keys, a charger for a phone on the trail, a tourniquet and injection paraphernalia.”

The fugitives, according to a recap of the event posted on the Sheriff’s Office Facebook, may have been using drugs during the chase “possibly for some extra energy.”

At approximately 3 p.m., deputies spotted the two fleeing individuals, as they were apprehended following a short chase on foot high on the mountain. While Seagrave was arrested and booked in the San Miguel County Jail, his companion, who was not identified by authorities, was released after questioning. Seagrave has since been released on bond.

While high-speed car chases and dramatic pursuits over snowy mountain terrain are usually seen in the Telluride area only on the silver screen, Masters noted that the region, while generally calm and safe, is not immune to dangerous individuals.

“There’s no magical walls around Telluride,” he observed.

Fortunately, no one was hurt during Sunday’s incident, and the several agencies that responded worked together to apprehend the fugitives.

“I really have to thank the citizens that called in and reported seeing the suspects as they were being pursued by the state patrol, the outstanding work by our partner, Norwood Marshal Wilkerson, and the 'never-give-up’ attitude of our deputy sheriffs. We all made a good team,” Masters said, according to the post.

While Sunday’s incident provided a high-adrenaline end to the week for local law enforcement, Thursday provided a sunnier moment, when the Sheriff’s Office presented the agency’s heroism award to John Toumbs of Montrose. After a vehicle crashed on Highway 145 in March, Toumbs, a passing motorist, assisted Deputy Michael Donnellon in pulling the driver from the burning wreckage.

“His efforts helped save the driver’s life,” noted a recent Sheriff’s Office Facebook post, thanking Toumbs for his heroic response.