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Man says couple pepper-sprayed him before stealing his SUV; suspect, officer struggle

Suspect is denied admission to jail because of COVID-19 rule

A couple suspected of pepper-spraying an elderly man and stealing his car on Oct. 17 in New Mexico might face additional charges including resisting arrest and possessing meth after officers tried to detain them on Oct. 24, according to a Cortez Police Department incident report.

Donovan Denetdeal was found in possession of a stolen black Chevrolet Trailblazer at Sleeping Ute Apartments at 516 S. Madison St. in Cortez.

The vehicle went missing Oct. 17.

According to the police report, the elderly driver gave Donovan Denetdeal and Lindsey Yazzie a ride up a bluff to drop them off. Once up the bluff, he said, the couple pepper-sprayed him and attempted to pull him out of his seat, although he had a seat belt on, he told police. After they removed the seat belt, the couple threw the man into the dirt, took his phone, wallet and keys, and left him there.

The man remained on the ground, his vision impaired by the pepper spray and a recent cataract surgery.

Denetdeal originally was denied admittance into the Montezuma County Detention Center, the report said. Police turned over the investigation to officials in San Juan County, New Mexico, because that is where the theft occurred, Assistant Chief of Police Andy Brock said Friday.

As of Friday, neither Denetdeal nor Yazzie were in custody at the San Juan County Adult Detention Center in Farmington, a representative said Friday.

Denetdeal has a history of crime, Brock said. In 2020 alone, he was charged as a suspect in an assault, two stolen vehicle cases, a bicycle theft case, for a traffic incident, two shoplifting cases and for trespassing.

Yazzie does not have a previous criminal record, Brock said.

The San Juan County Sheriff’s Office was closed Friday and unavailable for comment.

Denetdeal is scheduled to to appear in Montezuma County Combined Courts for a jury trial Nov. 15 through Nov. 17. He has a virtual status conference Nov. 10 at 8:30 a.m.

A criminal complaint against Denetdeal also was filed Oct. 25 in New Mexico through the Aztec Magistrate Court for robbery, unlawful taking of a motor vehicle and misdemeanor aggravated battery with no great bodily harm. Yazzie also was issued the same criminal complaint charges on the same day in New Mexico.

After soliciting help in finding the vehicle with a Facebook post, the owner’s grandson received a tip that it was parked at Sleeping Ute Apartments, 516 S. Madison St., the police report continued.

Cortez Police responded just after 10 a.m. Tuesday and confirmed that the stolen vehicle was parked at the apartment complex. Police recognized Denetdeal from previous interactions as he walked out of an apartment toward the stolen car, the report said.

Denetdeal told police he didn’t know about the missing Chevrolet. He tried to reenter the apartment, but police told him he was detained.

Police patted Denetdeal down to check for weapons, and they observed him to have a foldable knife – and keys to the missing Trailblazer – in his pockets.

Police Sergeant Rogelio Maynard instructed Denetdeal to put his hands behind his back, but he twisted out of Maynard’s hold and used his body weight to throw a second officer, Kristin Cannon, around, the report said.

Police brought Denetdeal to the ground, and he continued to struggle with Cannon as she lay on top of him to restrain him. Another officer arrived, and Denetdeal was taken into custody, the police report said.

A woman came out of the same apartment Denetdeal exited and asked to retrieve items she claimed to be hers from the stolen car, which she told police she had borrowed. Police said they would speak with the owner to determine ownership of the items.

Montezuma County Detention Center staff did not accept Denetdeal into custody, so Cannon issued him county court summons for aggravated motor vehicle theft, resisting arrest and obstructing a peace officer. Cannon noted that she would seek additional charges as the investigation revealed details of the car’s theft, the report said.

A later search of the car produce a mix of items including two narcotics syringes, an unloaded pistol, pepper spray, and a bag of methamphetamine, according to the incident report.

Although he was unfamiliar with the case, Montezuma County Sheriff Steve Nowlin said Friday that the presence of drugs and a gun alone would warrant admission to the jail if there was room.

At the time of the report, it was not disclosed who possessed the items.

Nowlin previously called for a limit on the intake of inmates Oct. 12 because of a rise in COVID-19 cases at the jail. Under the order, only individuals suspected in Class 1 through Class 3 felonies, sexual assault, and mandatory domestic violence arrests and/or protection order violations would be admitted to the jail.

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The jail will begin to ease up on those restrictions starting Monday, he said. Minor misdmeanors still won’t warrant admission.

Last week, the jail saw its outbreak double, resulting in 26 inmate virus cases and two staff cases. All but one of the cases has been cleared, Nowlin said. The last case should be cleared Saturday, and until then, that inmate is isolated.

The car – stolen for eight days – suffered severe scratching and had an AAA sticker scratched off. Police estimated the cost of repairing the damages to be more than $3,000.

Receipts under Yazzie’s name showed two stays at the Tomahawk Lodge at 728 South Broadway: one on Oct. 17 — the date of the theft — and one the next night on Oct. 18. Surveillance showed the couple in the missing vehicle.

The manager told police the couple tried to rent a room Sunday, as well — after the encounter with Cortez police officers. Yazzie told the manager her car and wallet had been stolen and that she needed to use her uncle’s card to book a room. The manager refused their request, and told police she was suspicious of their behavior.

Yazzie refused to provide more details about allegedly borrowing the car when later questioned, the report said.

Cannon wrote that she would seek a warrant for Yazzie’s arrest as well.

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