Dashcam captures high-speed chase on Salt Flats after UHP car was stolen

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WENDOVER — Newly released dashcam video shows parts of a high-speed chase on the Salt Flats from the point of view of a woman who police say commandeered a Utah Highway Patrol car while in handcuffs.

Brandy Willes and passenger Tommy Rodriguez, also in handcuffs, speeded into the desert, topping out at 133 mph before running from police on foot on July 30, UHP reported.

The pair traveled about 3 miles before the attempted getaway ended with the help of a police helicopter.

"He didn't even notice," someone inside the police car is heard saying as it sped by the trooper who was checking on bystanders after cuffing the pair he believed had crashed a stolen Mazda.

Willes, 32, of Kearns, has been charged with a host of felonies and misdemeanors — seven total — that include theft, escape from custody, reckless endangerment, reckless driving and driving with a controlled substance. She has not yet entered a plea.

The two fled in the trooper's patrol car after wriggling through the handcuffs that originally were behind their backs. The officer followed them with the help of "good Samaritan" bystanders who loaned him their maroon Ford F-350 pickup, UHP trooper Evan Kirby said. The bystanders had stopped to help the Mazda that rolled.

Police say Willes managed to turn off the trooper's dashboard camera, but the camera turned back on after the patrol car passed 100 mph.

Before the car theft, the trooper responded to a reported rollover about 9:30 a.m. roughly 19 miles east of Wendover. A license plate check found the Mazda had been stolen, according to UHP, and the man and woman were handcuffed.

There was only room for one in the back of the car, so the trooper put the woman in the front passenger seat.

The trooper then went to retrieve their belongings, hearing from the bystanders that burnt foil had been placed in their truck and they didn't want to touch it.

But when he turned around, the trooper saw the pair driving in his car toward Salt Lake City on I-80 "with only the two prisoners in the vehicle," he wrote in his report included in a probable cause statement.

After the pair fled into the desert on foot and over train tracks, the trooper lost sight of them. A Utah County sheriff's search and rescue helicopter spotted the handcuffed pair in the desert, and they were taken back into custody.

Rodriguez has not been charged. Police were reviewing what they said were possible medical problems. After the chase, he told emergency medical responders he thought he was having an asthma attack. But crews determined he was overdosing on methamphetamine and took him to Mountain West Medical Center, then to University Hospital. Willes also was taken to a hospital as a precaution.

UHP on Wednesday stood behind its employee.

”The trooper did everything right," Sgt. Todd Royce said.

Royce noted that the vast, empty salt field doesn't offer good hiding spots for fugitives or anyone else.

"It's not like they're going anywhere that they're not going to get found," he said.

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Ladd Egan


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