Colorado Springs, CO – A Fountain police officer suffered fatal injuries when he fell from a bridge while chasing after a group of carjacking suspects.
The Fountain Police Department (FPD)’s involvement in the case began at approximately 4 p.m. on Feb. 2, when they received a request from the Colorado Department of Corrections (DOC) Parole Unit to help locate a carjacking suspect with active felony warrants out for his arrest, the El Paso County Sheriff’s Office (EPCSO) said in a press release.
The FPD was told the suspect was believed to be traveling northbound on Interstate 25 from the Pueblo area.
The stolen vehicle was tracked to the area of the Citadel Mall in Colorado Springs, where a multitude of law enforcement agencies joined in the search.
Officers spotted the stolen car driving recklessly near the Lowe’s store at Platte Avenue and North Academy at about 5:30 p.m. that day, the EPCSO said.
Investigators said it was possible the suspects inside the stolen vehicle were attempting to steal yet another car at the Lowe’s store.
Police said they were unable to safely keep the suspect vehicle in their sights because of the significant risk of harm the reckless driver posed to the public.
According to the EPCSO, officers said they spotted the stolen car traveling southbound on Interstate 25 towards Fountain at approximately 7:15 p.m. and were able to track it down in the area of Alegre Circle and Highway 85.
The FPD tried multiple tactics to stop the fleeing suspects , but they were unable to bring the pursuit to an end, the sheriff’s office said.
They continued chasing the suspects through Fountain on Highway 85 southbound before the stolen car began heading south on the northbound lanes of the interstate.
“Due to the dangerous actions of the suspects, officers disengaged and stopped following the vehicle, terminating the pursuit due to excessive speeds and the extreme risk to the public,” the EPCSO said.
The suspect ultimately made a U-turn and headed northbound on Interstate 25 north and into the Love’s Travel Plaza located in the 5500-block of Travel Plaza Drive.
Law enforcement officers said they then witnessed the suspects “attempt to commit another armed carjacking of a community member” in the parking lot of the travel plaza, according to the EPCSO.
“Based on numerous violent felonies continuing to be committed and the extreme risk to the public, officers were forced to reengage the suspects and attempt to apprehend them to prevent the loss of life or serious bodily injury to the public,” the sheriff’s office said.
The chase resumed at about 7:45 p.m. and continued northbound on Interstate 25.
Officers were able to partially disable the stolen car using a tire deflation device after it exited the interstate at South Academy, but the driver continued traveling eastbound.
FPD officers performed yet another tactical vehicle intervention in the area of South Academy and Hartford Street, at which point the driver bailed out of the car and took off running on foot, according to the EPCSO.
FPD Officer Julian Becerra was chasing the violent fugitive across the bridge when he fell and landed in a riverbed 40 feet below, according to NBC News.
The sheriff’s office said the suspect attempted to jump off of the bridge to escape, but that officers were able to grab him and save him from falling.
“As the suspect was hanging over the bridge he repeatedly stated, ‘let me go, I want to die,’” the EPCSO said. “The officers were able to pull him up to safety and place him into custody without incident.”
Two male suspects and one female suspect were ultimately booked into the El Paso County Criminal Justice Center in connection with the incident.
They have been identified as 31-year-old Devon Bobian, 28-year-old Danisha Pacheco, and 37-year-old Anthony Vallejos.
The EPCSO said Bobian was the driver of the stolen car.
He and Vallejos were both arrested on outstanding felony warrants and will also face additional felony charges in connection with the incident.
Pacheco was charged with multiple felonies for her alleged role in the melee.
Officer Becerra, 35, was airlifted to Penrose Hospital with severe injuries and was placed on life support, NBC News reported.
He succumbed to his injuries at 7:14 p.m. on Feb. 11, according to a fundraising page established to help his family.
The men and women of the EPSO grieve with our brothers & sisters of the Fountain PD at the tragic loss of Officer Julian Becerra. Officer Becerra honorably served with our Office. Blue Family, take care of each other as we keep Officer Becerra’s family in our thoughts & prayers. pic.twitter.com/SabemiRdOa
— EPCSheriff (@EPCSheriff) February 12, 2023
Officer Becerra, a U.S. Air Force veteran, served the FPD for five years.
He leaves behind his wife, his eight-year-old daughter, and his one-year-old son.
Donors have contributed more than $76,000 to the fundraising effort so far.
“The City of Fountain is heartbroken over the loss of Officer Julian Becerra,” Fountain Mayor Sharon Thompson said in a statement, according to The Gazette. “His family and friends are in our hearts and prayers during this difficult time.”
“Fountain will forever be grateful for the selfless service and bravery of Officer Julian Becerra, and we are so proud and thankful for all our police officers and first responders who keep our community safe every day,” Thompson added.
The mayor also blasted the lack of accountability in the criminal justice system and failed bail reform initiatives for the young officer’s death, KRDO reported.
“[The suspects] should never have been out on the street in the first place,” Thompson said. “But due to a lack of accountability in our justice system and failed bail reform initiatives, they were allowed to prey on our citizens and create the circumstances that put Officer Becerra on the bridge that night.”
She said the public needs to be more involved in the legislation shaping public safety.
“Put pressure on your elected representatives. Visit the Colorado General Assembly website and see for yourself some of the bills that are being proposed and who the bill’s sponsors are,” Thompson urged.
The EPCSO said additional charges against the three suspects are expected.