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‘Dougherty Gang’ siblings jailed in Colorado

Image: Police officer at crime scene
Colorado State Patrol troopers investigate the scene where three fugitive siblings wanted in a crime spree in Florida and Georgia were captured Wednesday, in Walsenburg, Colo., after firing shots at officers during a high-speed chase and crashing their car into a highway barrier, authorities said.Colorado State Patrol via AP
/ Source: news services

Three fugitives siblings running from authorities in Florida and Georgia were jailed Wednesday in Colorado following a high-speed chase that ended in a crash and shootout, officials said.

The three, 21-year-old Ryan Edward Dougherty, 26-year-old Dylan Dougherty Stanley and 29-year-old Lee Grace Dougherty, were booked into Pueblo County Jail after being treated at Spanish Peaks Regional Hospital in Walsenburg, Colo.

Each are being held on four counts of first-degree assault on a police officer, NBC News reported.

Two were injured in the crash and Lee Dougherty was shot in the leg by a Walsenburg police officer after she ran into a field and pointed a gun at the officer, officials said.

Police recovered two AK-47s, a machine pistol and a handgun from the trio's Subaru Impreza, The Gazette of Colorado Springs reported.

They had been sought since Aug. 2, when they allegedly fired 20 shots at a Florida officer during a high-speed chase and later became suspects in a Georgia bank robbery.

The Wednesday vehicle chase started after authorities received a report that the suspects were at a campground near Colorado City, the Colorado State Patrol said in a statement obtained by NBC News.

The car was gone by the time deputies arrived but was spotted by another Pueblo County deputy near a Subway restaurant near Exit 74 on Interstate 25, Pueblo County Sheriff Kirk Taylor said.

One suspect was in the car when deputies spotted it, and the other two siblings jumped in and a chase began at 9:36 a.m., NBC station KUSA reported.

The roughly 20-mile chase ended when the siblings' vehicle crashed after a trooper set tire-puncturing stop-sticks on the road, the State Patrol said.

Chase speeds were over 100 mph at times and someone from inside the car fired an AK-47 out the window at pursuing state troopers, said Lt. Col. Anthony Padilla of the Colorado State Patrol, noting police did not return fire during the chase.

Deputies told KUSA the siblings were traveling so fast, they ran off the side of the road, hit a guardrail and flipped their car.

One sibling was caught immediately; Lee Dougherty was caught in the nearby field and the third sibling ran into Walsenburg, where he was soon arrested, officials said.

The Colorado State Patrol first confirmed the arrests via the Public Affairs Unit's Twitter account: "Short pursuit with 3 sibling fugitives from Florida ends in crash, three in custody."

"We did not think there would be a very good ending to this," Padilla said, praising the cooperation of law-enforcement agencies.

FBI agent Phil Niedringhaus lauded citizens making phone calls to police.

"That's the only way we knew they were still here," he said.

In Florida, police welcomed news of the capture.

"Ladies and gentleman, I'm proud to say we won," Pasco County, Fla., Sheriff Chris Nocco said at a news conference following their capture. "We continuously said that if these three fugitives wanted a battle with law enforcement, we would win that battle. And that's what happened today."

He called the siblings "very, very dangerous people" and their capture a tremendous relief.

"It's uncommon that we would come across these three siblings who would have an arsenal and (are) not afraid to use it," he said.

Some of Nocco's deputies were expected to fly to Colorado on Wednesday night to interview the trio.

The Dougherty siblings' mother, Barbara Bell of East Palatka, Fla., spoke briefly with The Associated Press on the phone Wednesday.

"I'm sorry. I'm making no comment at this time. Bye," said Bell, who last week had urged the trio to give up before there was bloodshed.

Next step
Bernie McCabe, the state attorney for the judicial circuit that includes Florida's Pasco County, said officials in the various jurisdictions have not decided how to handle the extradition of the suspects.

"I don't know the status of the Georgia situation," he told The Associated Press. "They might get first crack at them. That has not been decided yet."

McCabe said that the only local warrants currently outstanding are two for Ryan Dougherty for grand theft auto and failure to register as a sex offender — both of which are based on events that occurred before the shooting at police in Florida. He said it would be up to the sheriff to forward charges to his office related to the chase and shooting, if they decide to.

On Tuesday, authorities said they received "credible information" that people matching the description of the three were spotted in Colorado.

A possible sighting near Interstate 25 north of downtown Colorado Springs was reported around 1:30 p.m. Tuesday (3:30 p.m. ET), Colorado Springs police said.

The Colorado Springs Gazette reported the possible sighting Tuesday was called in by a customer in the parking lot of an REI store. REI spokeswoman Libby Catalinich told The Associated Press only that the company was contacted by law-enforcement officials. She declined further comment.

They were also seen trying to buy ammunition for an AK-47 at an area Walmart, Taylor said.

Canyon City Mayor Tony Greer told KUSA that a Walmart clerk told Dylan Dougherty he couldn't buy the ammunition Tuesday at Walmart but could get it at another store in town. On Wednesday morning, the employee recognized Dylan Dougherty on a news report and contacted authorities.

The FBI had said people spotted Tuesday were in a small white Subaru Impreza with the stolen Texas license plate LCS 909.

A nationwide manhunt for the siblings began Aug. 2. The three are suspected of firing at least 20 shots at a Florida officer during a chase that reached 100 mph after he tried to pull them over for speeding.

Hours later, three people wearing masks robbed a bank in Valdosta, Ga., about 210 miles north. One robber brandished an AK-47 assault rifle while another was photographed by a security camera waving a machine pistol, the FBI said.

Siblings have records
Nocco said all three siblings had been living together in Lacoochee, Fla., about 45 miles (72 kilometers) northeast of Tampa, and each had a criminal record. Lee Dougherty has charges pending against her in Florida for hit and run and had previously been charged with battery, Nocco said, and Stanley Dougherty had been charged with marijuana possession.

Nocco also said police feared the siblings were carrying an arsenal of weapons. Tracing prior background checks run by gun sellers, police confirmed that Ryan Dougherty bought an AK-47 assault rifle — like the one used in the bank robbery — at a pawn shop two years ago. Similar checks showed his brother also owned guns.

Police posted photos of the suspects on electronic billboards across the Southeast. Valdosta Police Cmdr. Brian Childress said it seemed the three had a "death wish."

Lee Grace Elizabeth Dougherty's first brush with the law appears to have been last May after she was involved in a traffic accident on Interstate 95 in Florida's Space Coast.

At the accident scene, Dougherty began screaming and yelling at her boyfriend. Deputies placed her in a patrol car, trying to calm her down, but she kicked and tried to head-butt a deputy, tried to break out a car window with her foot and spit in the face of a state trooper, according to the accident report.

She was arrested for driving under the influence and battery on a law enforcement officer. She had been driving with a suspended driver's license and she refused to take drug and alcohol tests.

Just 10 days later, she was involved in another traffic accident and charged with driving with a suspended license and leaving the scene of an accident. Her boyfriend, who was in the car with her, was arrested for an earlier domestic violence charge in which Dougherty was the victim. While in the trooper's patrol car, she put a seat belt around her neck and pulled it as if to choke herself, the incident report said.

Lee Dougherty pleaded guilty to the DUI charge and to driving with a suspended license last month. She was sentenced to a year of probation.

She was on the run by the time a probation officer made a home visit Aug. 3 in Merritt Island, Florida.

Brendon Bookman, who said he is engaged to Lee Dougherty, told KUSA he didn't know why she took off with her brothers but thought it was because she was trying to protect them as the oldest sibling.

"She was fiercely loyal to her family," Bookman told KUSA. "She cared more about helping her family than helping herself."