PD: Suspect who hit officer prior to pursuit has 25-year history of drug use

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by Catherine Holland

Video report by Jill Galus

Posted on January 21, 2014 at 6:19 AM

Updated Thursday, Jan 23 at 7:05 PM

Map: Higley and Adobe

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MESA, Ariz. -- A Mesa man who reportedly confessed to a long history of drug use is facing a variety of charges after hitting an officer with his truck and leading police on a short chase that ended in a rollover.

Shortly after 5 a.m. Tuesday, a Mesa Police Department two-man patrol unit stopped a red pickup truck that didn't have a license plate. At the first the driver, later identified as Rogelio Vargas, of Mesa complied, showing the officers a valid driver license.

According to court paperwork, everything changed when one of the officers smelled marijuana and asked Vargas, 37, to step out of his truck.

Police say Vargas opened his door to get out, but then hit the gas and sped away, hitting the officer first with the open door and then the rear of the truck as he fled.

According to Sgt. Tony Landato of the Mesa Police Department, the officers followed Vargas into a neighborhood. Police say he was going about 60 mph through the residential area.

With the squad car in pursuit, Vargas turned onto Higley Road from Adobe Street, which is between University Drive and Brown Road, but apparently took the turn too fast, causing the pickup to roll.

Both the officer who was hit and Vargas were taken to a local hospital as a precaution. Both reportedly suffered minor injuries and are expected to make full recoveries.

While at the hospital, police say Vargas told them he could not remember what happened because "he had used a large amount of illegal drugs the night prior."

According to the probable cause statement, Vargas admitted to a long history of drug use, telling the arresting officer that he had been "using methamphetamines for the past 25 years." Based on his age, that means Vargas first used meth when he was 12 years old.

Vargas, who reportedly has prior arrests on weapons and drug charges, was booked on suspicion of aggravated assault on a police officer and unlawful flight. Landato said DUI drug charges are pending.

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