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Man, teenage niece found dead after chase from Colorado to New Mexico


  • A San Juan County Sheriff's Office deputy investigated the scene of a fatal shooting off Bluff Road in Shiprock, N.M. on Monday. (Jon Austria/The Daily Times via AP)
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SHIPROCK, N.M. » A Florida man and his 14-year-old niece were found dead with gunshot wounds to the head after a wild car chase across the Southwest in which multiple shots were fired at officers, New Mexico authorities said Tuesday.

Lt. Kyle Lincoln with the San Juan County Sheriff’s Office said Benjamin James Edwards III, 31, of St. Augustine, was a person of interest in the theft of a firearm and in the disappearance of his niece, also of St. Augustine. The girl, who was the second person found dead, was reported missing May 4.

The chase began Monday morning after sheriff’s deputies in Montezuma County, Colorado, were called after gasoline was stolen in Cortez in the southwestern part of the state. Investigators said shots were fired at the deputies, and the driver fled toward the Colorado-New Mexico border about 30 miles away.

During the chase, the driver periodically pointed a gun out the window and shot at pursuing officers. Montezuma County Undersheriff Jim Kingery said one bullet broke the rear driver’s side window of a car driven by a vacationing German couple.

The tourists were not injured.

The chase ended on the Navajo Nation in northwestern New Mexico when the driver lost control on a sharp turn and high-centered the SUV on the edge of the roadway. Officers ordered the occupants out and received no response. They then broke out a window and found them dead.

No officers were injured in the chase.

Lincoln said police never fired their weapons but recovered a handgun from the vehicle.

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