A deportation officer with U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement led Arizona state police and federal agents on a high-speed desert chase in his government vehicle, throwing bundles of marijuana out of the window as he fled, the Department of Public Safety said Wednesday.
The deportation officer, identified as Jason Alistair Lowery, 34, had been under surveillance for more than month after a known smuggler who had been arrested gave authorities a tip about the officer in an effort to get lenient treatment, Department of Public Safety Officer Carrick Cook told The Associated Press. Lowery, who lives in the Phoenix suburb of Chandler, does not yet have an attorney.
DPS and federal agents tried to pull Lowery over Tuesday after he picked up a load of marijuana in the desert with his unmarked ICE pickup truck, Cook said. The officer fled, leading agents on a 45-minute chase at speeds of up to 110 mph as he threw 10 of the 14 bundles of pot that he had in the truck out of the window, he said. "He got pretty desperate," Cook said.
The chase began in the Vekol Valley about 45 miles south of Phoenix and ended just south of Sacaton, about 20 miles as the crow flies northwest from where the chase began. It ended when Lowery's truck rolled over and he gave himself up. DPS believes Lowery was taking the marijuana to a man working for a drug cartel whose house served as the nexus of the drug distribution.
Lowery was booked into Pinal County jail on charges of smuggling and felony flight and was turned over to ICE custody Wednesday morning. The sheriff's office also booked the man who was to receive the marijuana, identified as 33-year-old Joshua Duane Powell of Arizona City.
At Powell's home, police found 14 rifles and guns in the trunk of his car, seven of which had been reported stolen, according to a DPS document. The document also said that Powell had been out on a $25,000 bond stemming from a separate investigation last month in which multiple bulletproof vests, weapons, stolen night-vision equipment, hundreds of rounds of ammunition and various drugs were found in his home.
"Since his release only a few weeks ago, (Powell) has amassed a small arsenal of weapons and has proven to continue involvement in the illicit drug trade," the document said. Powell does not yet have an attorney and he has declined interview requests from the news media.
ICE spokesman Vinnie Picard declined to say how long that Lowery had worked for the agency or other details about him or the case. "ICE is cooperating with federal and state authorities in this matter," Picard said in a statement. "We hold our officers and agents to the highest levels of responsibility and are committed to supporting the agencies investigating this incident."
By AMANDA LEE MYERS The Associated Press