Alleged car thieves arrested, but driver who led police on hour-long chase at large

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Felipe De Jesus Sandoval Padilla By Jennifer Thomas Felipe De Jesus Sandoval Padilla By Jennifer Thomas

PHOENIX and CASA GRANDE – A suspected car thief is on the loose after a police chase that went on for nearly an hour before coming to an end in the desert near Casa Grande south of Phoenix.

It started with a police crackdown on auto thefts.

According to investigators, an SUV reported stolen early Tuesday was located at about 3 p.m. thanks to its Lojack system. Detectives launched a surveillance operation, eventually following the stolen vehicle and a pickup truck from an apartment complex to a Circle K near 32nd Street and Broadway Road. It was later determined that the pickup also had been stolen.

According to Sgt. Steve Martos of the Phoenix Police Department, the suspects did not know they were being followed.

At about 7 p.m., five suspects were taken into custody in the parking lot of the convenience store.

Those suspects have been identified as Jose Luis Arrellano, 25, Miguel Alfonso Gonzalez-Pena, 25, Francisco Diaz Solano, 19, Jorge Medina Enriquez, 22, and Victor Manuel Angulo-Chavez, 34. All five were charged with knowingly being in a stolen vehicle and resisting arrest with intent to injure.

Arrellano also faces two counts of aggravated assault on a police officer.

One suspect took off on foot. Two officers were right behind him. That fleeing suspect was quickly picked up by the stolen SUV driven by Felipe De Jesus Sandoval Padilla, 24.

Police said Padilla accelerated at one of the pursuing officers, apparently attempting to run him down. Both officers fired one shot each at the SUV. Nobody was hit. The first suspect then got behind the wheel and led police on a 40-mile chase down Interstate 10.

Officers followed both on the ground and in the air. In addition to Phoenix police, officers from the Department of Public Safety, the Gila River Police Department and the Mesa Police Department were involved.

After about 40 minutes, the suspected car thieves veered off into the desert near Casa Grande. The SUV plowed into a dry canal about 10 minutes after that.

The men ditched the stuck vehicle and took off on foot, heading in different directions.

Padilla and another man tried to climb a mountain to get away, but the law-enforcement helicopter stayed on them and they were taken into custody.

Padilla was arrested and charged with aggravated assault.

The second person was not charged and police say he was simply a passenger in the SUV. He was detained by Immigration and Customs Enforcement.

The third suspect who fled into the desert remains on the loose. Martos said that suspect is the same person that fled on foot from the Circle K.

One DPS officer was was hurt as events unfolded in the Circle K parking lot. Martos said a Phoenix Police K9 bit the DPS officer's arm as he attempted to grab a suspect who was trying to run. The DPS officer was taken to the hospital and is expected to recover.