A mystery man got away from deputies after he was chased by them twice in the same night Sept. 23, in Abiquiú. His passenger wasn’t as lucky.

Rio Arriba County Major Billy Merrifield attempted to pull over a Nissan Pathfinder for speeding. It was doing 60 in a 35 mph zone, around 8 p.m., according to Sgt. Jack Casias’s incident report.

Merrifield told Casias and Deputy James Mayers over the radio, that the SUV was not stopping and had slowed down to about 53 mph. The SUV then turned right to travel south from State Road 96 to U.S. Highway 84, then engaged the hazard lights but still didn’t stop.

“Major Merrifield continued to attempt to make a traffic stop but the vehicle, described as a maroon 1999 Nissan Pathfinder, would not stop,” Casias wrote.

As Merrifield was attempting to stop the SUV, the license plate was run through dispatch and so was the owner’s information. Both came back clean and the deputies learned Louie Salazar, 61, of Youngsville was the registered owner.

Merrifield called off the pursuit around mile marker 215 and turned around. Mayers and Casias told dispatch that they’d be on the lookout for the SUV. They saw it near mile marker 206, as it was traveling south. It did not have its emergency flashers on this time. 

Casias and Mayers turned around to follow the SUV at a safe distance, then Casias turned on his emergency equipment and attempted to make a traffic stop. The SUV made a sudden left turn onto State Road 233 and did not stop.

Casias saw the driver toss out an unknown object from the SUV, which was not recovered. A pursuit was initiated again, but the vehicle fled east on State Road 233, never exceeding 45 mph.

“As deputies were pursuing the vehicle north on County Road 142, it came to an abrupt stop in front of house #385,” Mayers wrote in his supplemental report. “Once the vehicle came to a stop, the driver opened the driver side door, exited and fled on foot.”

He and Casias spoke with the passenger, Salazar. They asked him to step out of the SUV, made sure he had no weapons and then secured him in handcuffs so they could question him.

New Mexico State Police Officer Estevan Trujillo arrived on scene to assist the deputies, so they left Salazar in Casias’s custody while he and Mayers went to search for the driver.

“Officer Trujillo and I made our way down the driveway of house #385 searching for the individual that fled on foot,” Mayers wrote. “Officer Trujillo and I traveled approximately one quarter of a mile down the drive following the foot prints of the individual that fled. We observed an area leading down into an irrigation ditch where the individual had traveled, we were unable to locate any other signs of him after that.”

When they returned to where Casias and Salazar were, the sergeant told Mayers that he interviewed Salazar, who told him he tried to get the driver, whom he identified as Emilio Lovato, to stop when Merrifield and Casias tried to pull them over, but the man refused.

“Salazar said when the initial stop was attempting to be made, Lovato did not stop and when he pleaded with him to do so, Lovato did not say anything and continued to drive,” Casias wrote in his supplemental report. “Salazar went on to say that when the second traffic stop was attempting to be made, Lovato again, said nothing and just continued to drive. Salazar begged Lovato to stop but he would not. He said Lovato then stopped and exited the vehicle and began to run on foot.”

Salazar did admit to Casias that the two men drank a few beers after working on Salazar’s ranch all day. They went to Bode’s General Store and ate dinner and had another beer.

“He said he and Lovato then traveled back to Salazar’s residence, where they then decided to travel to Española for more beer and vehicle parts,” Casias wrote.

Because it was determined that Salazar was intoxicated and unable to drive, he was given the opportunity to call someone to pick up his SUV, but he had no luck. The vehicle was towed and the deputies gave him a ride to Española, where he was released because he was not involved in the fleeing incident.

Lovato’s information was run through dispatch, but deputies were unable to get any information on him.

“When further information is found on Lovato, charges for aggravated fleeing and failure to stop at a stop sign will be pursued through an arrest warrant,” Casias wrote.

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