Strange but true: The local media has all but ignored a police chase and shootout in California that left one Colorado prison escapee dead and another one in custody. Why? Perhaps because Christian Valdez, who was killed, and Jose Herrera, back behind bars, were juveniles when they were imprisoned -- although they were all grown up when they took a fateful ride into a community with the ironic (for them) name of Paradise.
According to the outlet, Valdez, eighteen, and Herrera, nineteen, escaped from a minimum security prison in Colorado about a month and a half ago. Folks at the district attorney's office in Butte County, where they had their encounter with law enforcement, believe they'd been locked up for offenses including burglary and assault, but Jess Harvat, communications coordinator for the Department of Human Services, declines to confirm this thesis. Even though they were adults at the time of the most recent incident, he notes that they were incarcerated as juveniles. For that reason, Harvat says, he is precluded from providing information about previous convictions, the facility from which they fled or even the date they split.
The Butte County authorities aren't nearly so reticent about what took place in their jurisdiction. According to them, California Highway Patrol officers tried to pull over a silver Buick for a speeding violation around 5:40 p.m. on Sunday. But Valdez, who was behind the wheel, took off instead -- which makes sense, since the car had been stolen, apparently in Colorado.
What followed was a 21 mile chase, with Valdez gunning the Buick up to 120 miles per hour. But the car slowed down considerably after running over a spike strip that pierced its tires. Valdez kept going as best he could on flattened rubber and rims, but he eventually was unable to make a turn and wound up in the parking lot of a Chevron station in Paradise.
Police were everywhere at that point, but one witness didn't think Valdez seemed particularly flustered. "I saw him passing by," she said, "and he just looked at me and smiled like, 'Oh, I'm having a good time.'"
It would be his last. After the Buick plowed into two cars at the Chevron, Valdez bailed out and tried to run, at which point the cops on the scene opened fire, striking the Buick (bullet marks are visible in one door) and putting him down. He died at a nearby medical center.
Herrera fared better, emerging from the showdown uninjured. He's expected to be sent back to these parts -- although when and to what facility the State of Colorado isn't saying.
We Believe Local Journalism is Critical to the Life of a City
Engaging with our readers is essential to Westword's mission. Make a financial contribution or sign up for a newsletter, and help us keep telling Denver's stories with no paywalls.
Support Our Journalism
Look below to see the KHSL-TV report.
Follow and like the Michael Roberts/Westword Facebook page.
More from our Colorado Crimes archive: "Barbara West, 73, accused of being getaway driver for burglary, leading police chase."