Down to Earth

Lauren Read poses in front of a display at her boutique, Down to Earth. She helped local police in the eventual arrest of a woman who went on an alleged shoplifting spree in Telluride July 26. (Photo by Suzanne Cheavens/Telluride Daily Planet)

A dramatic downtown foot chase that resulted in the arrest of three suspects, an injured police officer and the recovery of numerous stolen items was instigated by one of the shop owners whose store was hit.

Lauren Read owns Down to Earth, a clothing boutique near Elks Park. She reported to the Telluride Marshal’s Department July 26 at 2:20 p.m. the theft of several items on July 25, totaling nearly $1,000, according to the marshal’s department report. She didn’t have a name — yet — but the suspect was clearly visible on Read’s in-store security cameras. Read posted the images on social media. The suspect was distinctively dressed in white platform boots, her long dark hair was tipped with green dye, and she was wearing a black tube top and had visible tattoos.

Officers plied Main Street businesses warning shopkeepers of a possible shoplifter. As it turns out, Read was doing her own sleuthing. She called the marshal’s office again at 3:30 p.m. She’d tracked down and confronted the suspect at Alpen Schatz, extracting a confession from her that she had, indeed, walked off with clothing and accessories from Down the Earth. She removed the white platform boots and took off down South Pine Street. Read chased her while calling the police and the suspect ran into the parking garage beneath Fall Line condos.

Sgt. Jay Wilson arrived to see Read shouting at the suspect to stop and that the law had arrived. He pursued the subject on foot into the parking garage but she eluded him and jumped into a waiting vehicle, according to the report. Wilson, shouting commands to stop, ran in front of the vehicle and was struck before the silver Jeep Grand Cherokee came to a halt. Wilson, who was later diagnosed with two sprained knees, ran to the driver’s side of the vehicle, weapon drawn, but the driver sped down Pine Street and turned west down San Juan Avenue, the report states. Wilson called for backup and was advised that a citizen had phoned to let the police know the suspects were at Clark’s Market. Two officers from Mountain Village Police Department (MVPD), Grant Markwell and Nathan Santos, arrived at Clark’s. The female suspect fled from the market’s back door, where she was apprehended by MVPD. Officers reviewed the store’s surveillance cameras and observed the male subject throw a shirt and a glass pipe into a trashcan before fleeing on foot.

At the marshal’s office, the female subject and the driver of the getaway vehicle were identified as Savanna Sailas and Joseph Epstein-Solfield. The pair, Sailas told police, was in town visiting a friend, Justin Mazula, who resided in Mountain Village. Epstein-Solfield was believed to be at Mazula’s residence.

Attempts to reach Epstein-Solfield were unsuccessful, so the marshals and MVPD officers visited Mazula’s residence, where the men refused them entry and attempted to flee. Mazula was caught hiding on the roof and Epstein-Solfield was hiding in a storage closet elsewhere in the building.

The three were arrested on an assortment of charges, including felony theft, accessory to crime, simple assault, obstructing justice and others.

In the aftermath, only Epstein-Solfield remains in jail as of press time Tuesday afternoon, while Sailas has posted a notice on the Facebook page Telluride Sweet Rants and Bitching asking for the whereabouts of her dog, a Golden-type breed named Sonny. Various locals, aware of her shoplifting activities, expressed sympathy for her dog, but none for her plight.

From alleged criminal activity to apprehension and arrest, the whole scenario took place in just two days. It started with Read who was determined to catch the thief. The New Orleans native purchased the Down to Earth business just three years ago and pours her energy into its success. Catching a shoplifter red-handed elicited a reaction she didn’t quite expect from herself, but she does admit her Southern feistiness might have come into play.

“Don’t mess,” the petite Read said. “This store is the biggest thing in my life. It (being hit by a shoplifter) felt very violating and very personal.”

A combination of Read’s networking both with Main Street shop owners and on social media put Sailas’ face out to a large number of people very quickly. Her post with the security camera screenshots was shared 393 times.

Read’s determined foot chase and breathless call to the marshal’s department set in motion the eventual capture of Sailas and her companions. Confronting Sailas in the breezeway between Overland and Alpen Schatz and having Sailas admit she took the items, Read said, energized her.

“I don’t know what came over me,” she said.

When Sailas took off, Read and her employee, Kassie Montross, pursued her.

Looking back on her role in apprehending the woman who stole from her, Read is grateful she followed her father’s advice and installed security cameras in her store. Her internet sleuthing — she found Sailas’ Facebook page, which was filled with posts of various brand-new-looking items for sale — was shared with Wilson who commended her for her diligence.

“It was quite the adventurous day,” she said.