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‘And the chase ensued’ – officers, suspects careen through county

By Judith Pannebaker BCC Editor

Making like the Barneys Oldfield, two alleged scofflaws led law enforcement officers on a pair of separate vehicle and foot chases during the past week, according to Bandera County Sheriff’s Office Chief Deputy Matt King.
The first incident occurred Monday, March 14, after a vehicle was reported stolen at Bandera City Park. At approximately 5 pm, BCSO was notified that a light blue 2009 Volkswagen Beetle had gone missing stolen. Apparently a woman had parked her car and went off for a ramble through the park – without bothering to lock the car doors or remove the keys from the vehicle. She returned from her walk to find her Beetle had vanished.
King said Deputy Marshal Earl Heidelberg contacted the BCSO about the incident and a BOLO (be on the lookout for) went out immediately to all patrol officers. Additionally, city law enforcement authorities informed their county colleagues they had a suspect in the theft who lived on Old Hondo Highway.
BCSO Sgt. Joey Hernandez was en route to the address when he spotted the errant Volkswagen, “… and the chase ensued, but since the suspect was driving a Volkswagen, it wasn’t exactly high speed,” King noted. The Beetle’s alleged thief, later identified as Hector Gutierrez, 29, had taken off toward the Hill Country State Natural Area before plowing into a field on private property, followed closely by Hernandez.
Gutierrez finally ditched the car and took off on foot, leaving his female passenger, Meaghen Teets, 19, behind at the scene. At this point, Heidelberg, Department of Public Safely Trooper Chip Aragones, City Marshal Will Dietrich and Deputy Matt Krueger had joined Hernandez in the hunt for Gutierrez – to no avail. “He got away, but we picked up Ms. Teets for drug possession,” King said.
Alert went out
Because the suspect remained at large, 9-1-1 telecommunications operators made calls to area residents informing them about the incident and urging them to remove keys from vehicles and tractors and to lock their doors.
“The next day, we received a call from a resident telling us that Gutierrez had been spotted,” King said. “A city deputy was dispatched to the area and made the arrest without further incident.”
Gutierrez has been charged with four felonies, included two counts of evading arrest with a vehicle, unauthorized use of a motor vehicle and possession less than one gram of a Penalty Group 1 controlled substance. Teets has been charged with felony possession less than one gram of a PG 1 controlled substance possession of inhalant paraphernalia and felony having a controlled substance in a correctional facility.
At press time, both suspects were still incarcerated in the Bandera County Jail.
Second chase
A second vehicle and foot chase took place Tuesday, March 15, when Kreuger attempted to stop a vehicle for a traffic violation. At approximately 9:22 pm, on Highway 16 North, the deputy pulled alongside a 1995 Chevy pickup truck, whose driver, later identified as Brandon Saunders, 29, had refused to yield. Kreuger recognized the passenger as Austin Hernandez, 20, who had outstanding warrants.
At that point, the driver took off and turned onto 13th Street and – once again – “the chase was on.” After calling for backup, Kreuger was joined by Aragones and Deputy Marshal Willie Smith.
Eventually the pickup made its way to Highway 173 North and, according to King, was “going at a high rate of speed in opposite lanes of traffic around the curves.” The truck then turned onto Evans Road and crashed through a gate into private property – followed closely by law enforcement vehicles that quickly surrounded the house.
“Mr. Hernandez took off across a field, Saunders, the driver, went into the house. And a female passenger was detained and later released,” King said.
Tactical entry
Led by Sgt. Gerald “Jerry” Johnson, BCSO deputies made a tactical entry into the house and arrested Saunders. Also in the home were two elderly women, who were not involved in the incident.
Both the residence and the pickup belonged to one of the women, whose granddaughter was apparently friends with Saunders.
“He asked the girl’s grandmother to borrow her truck and she let him,” King explained. The juvenile female, who was also in the house, was released to the custody of her mother. Saunders was arrested and transported to the county jail.
At 2 am, the morning of Wednesday, March 16, Hernandez was finally arrested as he attempted to hitch a ride with a friend from Evans Road to Bandera.
“He called a friend and asked for a ride,” King said. “When she saw the patrol vehicle’s emergency lights, she pulled right over. The girl was essentially an innocent bystander in this incident.”
Hernandez was charged with four felonies, including possession of a PG 1 controlled substance, two counts of possession of stolen property and burglary of a building, as well as unlawful carrying; and three counts of evading arrest and one count of resisting arrest. Saunders has been charged with three felonies, including evading arrest with a vehicle, unlawful possession of a firearm as a felon and hindering apprehension or prosecution, as well as misdemeanor reckless driving.
As of press time, both suspects remain behind bars.
Sign up
King urged all county residents to sign up for BCSO emergency notifications and neighborhood alerts, such as the one that occurred last week. To sign up, visit www.banderacounty.org and click on the “STRAN” icon under notices.
“Bandera is a rural county and this is just another way we’re trying to protect all our citizens,” King said.