The cross-country manhunt for three heavily armed siblings from Florida ended far from home but in a favorable place for people on the run who want to vanish — the sparsely populated Rocky Mountains.
The tight-knit — and tight-lipped — towns near the rugged San Isabel National Forest in southern Colorado seemed unsurprised about the brief but intense nationwide search for two brothers and a sister accused of shooting at a police officer in Florida and robbing a bank in Georgia.
“It’s kind of backwoods around here, plenty of places to hide,” said Becky Garcia, a waitress and bartender at Viktorio’s Pizzeria in Colorado City. “What I can’t believe it that they were dumb enough to get on the interstate.
They could have made it. Then they went and got on the interstate. How stupid.” The siblings — Lee Grace Dougherty, 29, Dylan Dougherty Stanley, 26; and Ryan Edward Dougherty, 21 — reportedly bought camping gear and were hiding out in the nearby national forest.
They didn’t stand out to some. Jaimie Clark, 18, an employee at the Colorado City gas station where the siblings were spotted before their arrest on Wednesday, said her co-worker who was working the cash register at the time didn’t recognize the trio as fugitives, and they didn’t strike her as suspicious.
“They just came in, grabbed a few snacks, got gas and left,” Clark said. “She couldn’t even recall what they got because they just came in like regular customers.” Clark said given what the siblings were accused of in other states, she and her co-workers are relieved that nothing happened at the gas station.
“The fact that they came in here peacefully, we’re extremely thankful for,” she said.
Their notoriety didn’t go unnoticed by everyone after their images were splashed across television reports. Someone tipped Colorado state troopers and the sheriff’s office at about 9 a.m. Wednesday that the suspects might be at a campground south of Colorado Springs.
A Pueblo County sheriff’s detective spotted the car near an interstate highway Wednesday, followed it discreetly until state troopers joined him, and the chase was on.
AK-47 rounds were fired at the four patrol cars during the pursuit south on the interstate, where speeds exceeded 100 mph, said Lt. Col. Anthony Padilla of the Colorado State Patrol.
In Walsenburg, troopers deployed spiked stop strips across the interstate. A tire was punctured on the Subaru, sending it rolling and crashing into a guardrail.
Lee Dougherty was shot in the leg after she pointed a gun at a police officer near the car, authorities said, adding that she was trying to escape on foot. Another one of the suspects was apprehended after a brief foot chase.
The three suspects were treated at a Walsenburg hospital — Lee Dougherty for the gunshot wound and her brothers for injuries suffered in the crash — and were later transferred to Pueblo County Jail. They face four charges each of first-degree assault on a peace officer. They also have no-bond warrants in Georgia and Florida. It
wasn’t immediately known when their first court appearance would be.
“These three have a big legal mess in front of them and at some point they’ll face charges in all those jurisdictions,” FBI Special Agent Phil Niedringhaus said.
No one could say why the three ended up in Colorado, though Niedringhaus offered his own idea. “They were here because they were running,” he said.
Other fugitives have chosen the Rocky Mountain wilderness for a hideout. Last month, police nabbed a convicted murderer from Florida, 60-year-old Mark Barrett, who was discovered living in a remote cabin in Montrose, Colo., after more than three decades on the run.
And last summer, a prison escapee from Arizona was captured in rural Rifle, Colo.
A Rocky Mountain escape made sense to a handful of locals gathered for pizza and beer at Viktorio’s after the chase. Asked why they thought the fugitives fled here, some just pointed toward snowcapped peaks just to the west.
“It’s as good a place as any to disappear, I guess,” Garcia said.