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SALT LAKE CITY — One of the Salt Lake Metro Gang Unit's top 10 most wanted suspects has been arrested in connection with a violent home invasion robbery.
Joseph Ray Guerrero, 34, was booked into the Salt Lake County Jail on Wednesday for investigation of aggravated robbery, aggravated burglary, aggravated assault, possession of a weapon by a restricted person, theft of a firearm and failing to stop at the command of police.
On Oct. 18, Salt Lake police believe Guerrero and another person forced their way through the front door of a Westpointe neighborhood home near 300 North and 1800 West. A woman who was alone in the house tried to run out the back door, "but was dragged back into the residence and repeatedly struck/assaulted," according to a police booking affidavit.
Guerrero covered her mouth to prevent her from screaming and pinned her to the ground, the affidavit states. "Guerrero then held a handgun to the victim's head and demanded to know where the money was at in her house. Guerrero's accomplice then searched each room of the house for valuables."
It was unknown Thursday whether the home was robbed at random or if the suspects had a prior connection to the house. The woman suffered injuries not considered to be life-threatening, according to police.
After Guerrero and the other person left, the woman ran to her neighbor's house for help and to call 911. The woman told police that her smartphone was stolen. But she was able to track her phone the next day to a Midvale motel. Police responded to the motel but could not find the suspects.
The phone was later tracked to the area of California Avenue between 900 West and 1000 West, police say. Using surveillance video collected as part of the home invasion investigation, officers spotted a car in the area that matched the description of the suspects' vehicle, according to the affidavit. On the front passenger seat was a motel card from the business in Midvale.
The car, which was unoccupied, was seized by police. Detectives learned it was registered to Guerrero, who is "a parole fugitive, documented gang member and listed on the Metro Gangs Unit top 10 most wanted list," the affidavit says.
After obtaining a search warrant to track Guerrero's phone, police tracked down Guerrero and his girlfriend on Wednesday to an area near 400 South and Redwood Road, according to the affidavit. They were driving separate vehicles.
"As soon as officers were in proximity to these vehicles, both accelerated at a high rate of speed, ran numerous red lights, and swerved around traffic to avoid apprehension. Officers did not pursue Guerrero due to the dangerous nature of his driving. Officers also attempted to pursue Guerrero's girlfriend, but due to her reckless driving the pursuit was called off," the affidavit states.
The couple was later tracked to the St. Mark's Hospital parking garage. This time they were in the same car — which was later determined to be stolen — and once again fled as police approached them, driving away in a reckless manner, according to the affidavit.
"As officers continued to track Guerrero's phone, numerous agencies and a (Department of Public Safety) helicopter assisted. The helicopter was able to track the gray Ford sedan as it drove the various areas in Salt Lake County. The vehicle was observed running numerous red lights, driving at an unsafe speed, driving against traffic, and endangering the public," police wrote.
As the helicopter continued to follow Guerrero, spike strips were set up in the Avenues area and police said they were successful in disabling the fleeing car. Guerrero and his girlfriend continued to drive, however, and went into the parking garage at Salt Lake Regional Medical Center, 1050 E. South Temple.
Police searched the garage and found the vehicle but it was empty. While continuing to search the garage, they found Guerrero and the girlfriend sitting in another vehicle and arrested them, the affidavit states. Officers reported finding a gun under the driver's seat and a magazine in the back seat.
Eloria Clarissa Avila, 27, was also arrested for investigation of being a restricted person in possession of dangerous weapon, theft of a car and failing to stop at the command of police.