WACO (January 29, 2013)—Joe Ryan Vela, the man for whom police were searching in connection with a bizarre case involving the theft of a BMW from a mountain town, a harrowing chase on a Colorado interstate, and the arrest of a woman driving a Chevrolet Impala stolen from a local dealership, was in custody Tuesday in Waco.
Officers found the stolen BMW just after midnight Tuesday morning, parked in front of a home in the 1400 block of Turner Street.
Police surrounded the house and eventually talked with Vela, whose real name is Christopher Villa, into surrendering without further incident, Waco police Sgt. W. Patrick Swanton said.
Villa was in the McLennan County Jail Tuesday afternoon facing charges of theft of more than $1,500 but less than $20,000 stemming from the theft of several thousand dollars worth of stereo equipment from a Waco Walmart store and evading arrest, stemming from a failure to stop when a Moody officer attempted to pull the BMW over on Sunday.
Police in several local cities had been on the lookout after the stolen 2006 silver BMW 530XI with a sunroof and Oregon plates was spotted here over the weekend.
Moody police were advised Sunday that the BMW and its driver might be in the area.
Moody police Officer Chris Veselka spotted the vehicle at around 10:15 a.m. Sunday and gave chase, but the driver refused to stop and was able to elude him, speeding off and heading north on Interstate 35.
Then at around noon on Monday, Waco police spotted a similar BMW in the parking lot of the Franklin Avenue Walmart store while investigating a shoplifting report.
The car had been spray-painted black and the BMW logo had been removed from the hood of the vehicle, but Veselka said it was the same car.
Veselka said Vela has previous convictions and is named in outstanding warrants including one here charging evading arrest in connection with the chase on Sunday.
The BMW was stolen on Jan. 15 in Silverthorne, Colo.
A Colorado state trooper spotted it about 15 minutes after it was taken and as he tried to catch up with the car on Interstate 70 in the Colorado mountains west of Denver, he noticed that a gray Chevrolet Impala was trailing it, an arrest affidavit said.
He and other troopers tried to catch up with the two eastbound vehicles, which were traveling at speeds of 110 miles an hour or more on the mountain highway, but authorities said it appeared the driver of the Chevrolet was running interference for the BMW driver.
"The Impala passed (the trooper), pulled in front of him and was driving erratically, weaving across the road, apparently trying to prevent him from contacting that BMW," Sgt. Mike Baker with the Colorado State Patrol said.
The driver of the stolen BMW eluded troopers, but the Chevrolet, which was stolen on Dec. 20, 2012 from Greg May Honda in Waco, ultimately crashed into a fence at an exit from the interstate in Lakewood, a Denver suburb.
The woman who was driving the car ran into a private office complex where the affidavit says she pulled a fire alarm and then donned a janitor's coveralls she found in a closet.
A witness said she also took a broom, dustpan and apron, the affidavit said, evidently in an attempt to disguise herself.
Bridgette Sandoval, 28, who was driving was arrested outside the building and was taken to a hospital, according to the arrest warrant affidavit.
She told investigators "she had been forced to take drugs by people over the last four days" and that "she had last injected drugs on the morning of the incident," the affidavit said.
"I know I am on drugs now," she said, according to the affidavit.
She said someone else had injected her with methamphetamine and heroin and "put me in a car and told me to drive…run and don't stop," the affidavit said.
Sandoval remains in the Jefferson County, Colo. Jail facing a long list of charges in connection with the bizarre series of events.