Hunt for fugitives ended how sheriff predicted - in gunfire

August 9, 2011
photo - Top left, Ryan Edward Dougherty, 21; bottom left, Dylan Dougherty Stanley, 26; and Lee Grace Dougherty, 29 Photo by Courtesy of the Pueblo County Sheriff's Office
Top left, Ryan Edward Dougherty, 21; bottom left, Dylan Dougherty Stanley, 26; and Lee Grace Dougherty, 29 Photo by Courtesy of the Pueblo County Sheriff's Office 

The nationwide manhunt for the three siblings accused of shooting at a cop and robbing a bank ended Wednesday exactly how a Florida sheriff predicted — in gunfire.

The fugitives sprayed bullets from an automatic AK-47 while leading authorities on a harrowing 100-mph chase on Interstate 25 north of Walsenburg that ended when their Subaru Impreza went over spike strips, swerved off the highway and rolled onto a guardrail.

Lee Grace Dougherty, 29, and her two brothers, Dylan Dougherty Stanley, 26, and Ryan Dougherty, 21, tried to flee on foot after the crash but were quickly captured by police and Walsenburg residents. Lee Dougherty was shot in the leg by a Walsenburg police officer when she loaded a gun.

It was an abrupt end to a national manhunt that spanned eight days and roughly 1,500 miles, authorities said.

“We did not think there would be a very good ending to this,” said Lt. Col. Anthony Padilla of the Colorado State Patrol.

The three have been on the run since Aug. 2 when a Zephyrhills, Fla., police officer tried to pull them over for speeding. The Doughertys sped off while firing more than 20 shots in their wake.

A few hours later, in Valdosta, Ga., three people wearing masks robbed the Certus Bank. One robber had an AK-47 assault rifle and another had an automatic MAC-11 machine pistol, authorities said. Several shots were fired into the ceiling during the robbery.

FBI agents caught a break in the case Tuesday when the trio were spotted buying camping gear at the REI in Colorado Springs near Woodmen Road and I-25

Several hours later, the siblings were seen buying ammunition at a Cañon City Wal-Mart. They were spotted a third time around 9 a.m. Wednesday at a campground in the San Isabel National Forest.

On the way to check it out, Pueblo County Sheriff’s Detective Robbie Newsome, who was driving an unmarked patrol car, spotted their vehicle at 9:38 a.m. at the Sinclair gas station off exit 74 on I-25.

Jaime Clark, a cashier at the station, said a woman working the early shift was there when the siblings arrived.

“She didn’t even recognize them. They came in like normal and got their gas and snacks and paid and left,” she said. “We’re thankful for that.”

Newsome followed them south on the interstate heading toward Walsenburg. He kept his lights off until four state patrol cruisers barreling down the interstate caught up with him.

Just before the Huerfano County line, the Subaru’s driver floored it, hitting speeds over 100 mph. An AK-47 was held out a window and fired at the pursuers.

Troopers did not return fire, the state patrol’s Padilla said.

“We are not trained to fire from a moving vehicle,” he said. “That’s cops and robbers on TV.”

High-speed chases often are called off because of the danger to other drivers, but Padilla said the troopers did not back off Wednesday because of how dangerous the fugitives were and the scant traffic on the interstate.

A trooper overseeing a construction project near Walsenburg heard what was happening on his radio and put stop sticks on the road. The Subaru hit the stop sticks and rolled onto the guardrail. Ten minutes had elapsed from the time Newsome had spotted the fugitives’ vehicle to the end of the car chase.

All three siblings ran. One brother, who authorities have not identified, was caught on the off-ramp.

Lee Grace Dougherty, armed with an automatic weapon, ran into a nearby field and was shot by a Walsenburg police officer while chambering a round.

The other brother ran into Walsenburg, where David Vucetich and a few other men tackled him, said John Vucetich, David’s grandfather.

Inside the vehicle, authorities found two AK-47s, a machine pistol and a handgun.

The two brothers were treated for minor injuries from the crash while Lee Grace Dougherty — a stripper at an Orlando night club, according to ABC News — suffered a gunshot wound to her leg.

Pueblo County Sheriff Kirk Taylor said he was surprised that a nationwide manhunt ended at his doorstep.

“That was kind of strange,” he said. “They were caught a couple of hundred yards from the sign that says ‘Home of Sheriff Taylor.’ That was a poor choice on their part.”

The Doughertys were booked into the Pueblo County jail on suspicion of four counts of first-degree assault on a police officer, according to the state patrol.

Investigators are unsure what brought the siblings to Colorado. FBI special agent Phil Niedringhaus would only speculate that “they were here because they were running.”

During their cross-country run, their mother, Barbara Bell, said her children sent her a text message that read: “There’s a time for all of us to die.”

She held out hope, though, that the three would surrender without bloodshed.

“Although they’ve done some very bad things, no one has been physically injured yet. I would encourage my children to turn themselves in,” she said in an interview last Friday.

Roughly a week ago, Pasco County, Fla., Sheriff Chris Nocco asked for the Lord’s protection for anyone running into the violent gang. On Wednesday, he gave thanks that the manhunt, which began in his county, was over.

“Ladies and gentlemen, I’m proud to say we won,” said Nocco. “We continuously said that if these three fugitives wanted a battle with law enforcement, we would win that battle. And that’s what happened today.”

— The Associated Press contributed to this report.

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