Suspects lead police on chase

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Both accused of stealing lawn mowers from store

By The Staff

When Las Vegas police Lt. Martin X. Salazar spotted a green pick-up leaving the Big R parking lot with a riding lawn mower at 1:41 a.m. Tuesday, he knew something wasn’t right.

Suspecting that the men in the truck had just stolen the mower, he tried to pull the truck over as it headed north on Hot Springs Boulevard.

“The driver refused to bring the vehicle to a stop and began leading me and assisting officers on a chase throughout the city of Las Vegas,” Salazar states in a probable cause statement filed Tuesday in San Miguel County Magistrate Court. In the process, Salazar states, the driver drove past stop signs without stopping, and the lawn mower fell out of the truck. Police say the driver also almost struck another vehicle on the 400 block of Tecolote Street.

The chase ended on San Miguel County Road C-23, when the driver pulled into a driveway. But the trouble for the driver, identified as John Lopez, and passenger Victor Encinias, both 24, was just beginning.

Both men have been charged with two counts of felony larceny, conspiracy, criminal damage to property and tampering with evidence, all fourth-degree felonies.

Lopez is facing additional charges of aggravated fleeing a law enforcement officer, another fourth-degree felony, and misdemeanor counts of driving while under the influence, first offense, and driving with an open container.

Lopez, whose address in court documents is listed as being on Amber Lane in Las Vegas, and Encinias, who authorities say resides in Ribera, were being held at the San Miguel County Detention Center.

Magistrate Chris Najar set each of their bonds at $25,000 cash.

Lopez told police he panicked when Salazar tried to stop him, explaining that that’s why he didn’t stop, a court document states. When Lopez got out of the truck, officers detected a strong odor of alcohol on him. Police also saw several open bottles of beer and an open bottle of tequila inside the truck.

Lopez performed poorly on field sobriety tests, and a subsequent test determined that his breath alcohol content level was at .12, higher than the state’s presumed level of intoxication for drivers, police state.

City police obtained surveillance video from Big R. The video showed that Lopez and Encinias took two riding lawn mowers from the store, court documents state. The mowers had a combined value of more than $3,200.

According to a court document, Encinias admitted to using an ax to cut the chain that holds the lawn mowers affixed to the Big R property. He told police that they took the first mower at about 10 p.m. That mower was later found at Lopez’s residence.

Encinias admitted that they returned to the store a few hours later for the second mower. That’s when Salazar spotted them leaving the parking lot.