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Motorist on probation allegedly led troopers on chase

Hagadone News Network | October 12, 2022 1:00 AM

A Whitefish man already on probation is back behind bars after allegedly playing chicken with Montana Highway Patrol troopers and leading authorities on a chase over the weekend.

Alexander Jesus Vasquez, 46, remains in the county jail with bail set at $30,455 following his Oct. 1 arrest. He faces a single count of felony criminal endangerment in Flathead County District Court.

The alleged pursuit began when a trooper spotted a van with a cracked windshield headed south on U.S. 93 on Oct. 1. The driver of the van ignored the trooper’s emergency lights and then his siren, court documents said.

Soon after, the van pulled off of the highway and sped up. The trooper temporarily lost sight of the van, but located it after the driver apparently turned around. According to court documents, the van swung into the trooper’s lane, forcing him to swerve to avoid a collision.

The chase led back onto U.S. 93, where the trooper saw the van lurch into oncoming traffic before ducking down side streets, ignoring stop signs as it went, court documents said. Hitting Fifth Street in Whitefish, the van sped up again, forcing other vehicles to take evasive maneuvers.

Although the trooper again lost contact with the van, he later found it parked on O’Brien Avenue, court documents said. Witnesses reported that a man hefting a backpack left the van on foot prior to the trooper’s arrival.

Investigators linked the van to Vasquez after running the vehicle’s license plate, according to court documents. A nearby homeowner told troopers that a man had been sleeping in the van in the area and suggested investigators check out a local retirement home, court documents said. That same homeowner, shown a photograph of Vasquez, confirmed him as the man sleeping in the van, court documents said.

Working off that information, authorities caught up to Vasquez at the retirement home. He allegedly told investigators he failed to stop for Montana Highway Patrol because he suspected he had outstanding warrants.

Vasquez received a suspended five-year sentence with the state Department of Corrections on a criminal endangerment charge in early June. Initially charged with partner or family member assault for allegedly attacking his wife over a rent payment in August 2021, Vasquez reached a plea deal in December of that year. In exchange for a guilty plea, prosecutors amended the charge to criminal endangerment.

Vasquez is expected to appear in court Oct. 27 for his arraignment on the new charge before Judge Dan Wilson. Criminal endangerment is punishable by up to 10 years in Montana State Prison and a $50,000 fine.