Man jailed after stealing work truck while drunk and leading police on a high-speed chase

Contributed Photo/Courtesy GCSO: Justin Smith, 20, was booked on charges of unlawful flight from pursuing law enforcement, theft of means of transportation, and underage DUI.

By Jon Johnson

THATCHER – An electric contractor missed being tased but was still shocked to find out he wasn’t in Mexico after being apprehended by Thatcher Police after a vehicle and foot pursuit on Sunday. 

Justin Blake Smith, 20, was arrested and booked into the Graham County Adult Detention Facility on charges of underage DUI, unlawful flight from pursuing law enforcement, and theft of means of transportation. 

Officers were initially informed of a situation at about 10:30 p.m. when a resident advised of a truck that had driven onto his property and behaved suspiciously. As officers looked for the truck, the resident called and said it had returned to his house off Stacey Lane. 

Upon arrival, a Thatcher officer noticed a white, Ford F-250 pickup truck spinning around in the resident’s driveway. As the officer approached, the truck accelerated toward the police cruiser and veered right just before impact, according to the officer’s report. 

The officer then pursued the Ford as it sped westbound on 8th Street and blew through the stop sign at the intersection with 1st Avenue and headed southbound. The truck then reportedly went into the northbound lane, forcing a northbound car off the road onto the shoulder to avoid a collision. 

The truck then turned into the Quail Ridge subdivision and parked at 1581 S. Cactus Wren. A Caucasian driver – later identified as Smith – was seen exiting the truck and running into the residence at the address.

The officer followed in pursuit and at one point deployed his Taser but it was not effective. However, as the suspect ran out the back the officer caught up to him at a fence and took him into custody without further incident. While doing so, the officer noted a strong smell of alcohol on Smith’s breath. 

Upon speaking with other occupants in the residence, the officer learned they worked for an electric contractor and that Smith was from Alabama. The owner of the business then spoke with the officer and requested Smith be charged with theft of means of transportation as he did not have permission to use the company’s work truck. 

During the officer’s DUI investigation Smith allegedly told the officer he thought he was in Willcox and repeatedly asked to be booked into a jail in the United States rather than Mexico. The officer reassured Smith that he would be incarcerated in an American jail and then transported him to the Graham County Adult Detention Facility on charges of theft of means of transportation, unlawful flight from pursuing law enforcement, and underage DUI.