TOOELE — Charges have been filed against a group that Utah Highway Patrol troopers suspect were acting as drug trafficking decoys when they were clocked going more than 100 mph.
Gregory Demetri Ronzelle, 23, of Henrico, Virginia, and Isaiah Damon Sharp, 24, of Richmond, Virginia, were each charged in 3rd District Court with possession of a firearm by a restricted person, a third-degree felony.
Olden Douglas Ellerbe, 20, was arrested for investigation of criminal conspiracy, drug possession and possession of a weapon by a restricted person. Formal charges had not been filed against him as of Tuesday afternoon.
According to a police affidavit, a Utah Highway Patrol trooper spotted a car with three occupants going 101 mph on I-80 in Tooele County just before 7 a.m. on Friday.
The group claimed they were traveling from California back to their homes in Virginia after selling one car in California but not being able to sell the car they were driving. However, they did not have a title for the car and the driver did not have a license or insurance, according to a police affidavit.
While searching the vehicle, a trooper spotted three handguns “in the right compartment of the trunk, down by the car’s battery,” and placed the men in handcuffs for his protection, the affidavit states. The men claimed they didn't know the handguns were in the car, the affidavit states.
Troopers discovered Ronzelle and Sharp were each convicted felons and that Sharp was on parole and “has a lengthy and violent criminal history including assaults, kidnapping, crimes with possession of firearms,” the affidavit states. Ronzelle also “has a violent criminal history. He has been convicted of armed robbery twice,” troopers wrote in their affidavit.
Investigators also checked the cellphone of the third man and found information “consistent with drug trafficking,” the affidavit states.
Troopers believe the three men were a decoy and purposely sped past authorities “to get me to stop the vehicle in an attempt to distract me from a vehicle loaded with drugs,” the affidavit states.
The arresting trooper also noted in the affidavit, “I have never stopped a person that did not know that there was a firearm in the vehicle. The fact that someone would just leave three handguns in a vehicle and then sell it and forget about it is extremely improbable.
“With the circumstances of passing a patrol vehicle at a high rate of speed along with the information found on Olden’s phone are all consistent with the overt act of a criminal conspiracy involving trafficking contraband,” the affidavit continued.