DEL NORTE— A wanted felon was arrested in Del Norte Saturday afternoon, Feb. 3. Responding to a call about two suspicious males sitting in a vehicle at the Gateway Apartments on Spruce Street, Sergeant Frank Archuleta, of the Del Norte Police Department, contacted them as they began to exit the vehicle.
Archuleta instructed them to stay in the vehicle, but was ignored. One male, who Archuleta thought looked familiar, was asked for his identity and if he had any arrest warrants out for him. The male, Lee Wilcox, responded “no,” and started to walk away. Unable to follow him because Archuleta needed to stay with the other person he was in contact with, he called for assistance and told dispatch the identity of the suspect on the move.
“Wilcox hasn’t been around here for a long time and I didn’t recognize him right away,” said Archuleta. “As soon as I did, I let dispatch know, and they discovered the warrants.”
Wilcox went into an apartment in the Gateway complex and then out a window.
“He high-tailed it south up Spruce Street to the Lookout Mountain Trailhead,” said Archuleta. “State Trooper Gary Allen, responding to the call for assistance, spotted him taking the trail west off toward D Mountain.”About that time, Archuleta was informed by dispatch that the suspect had a felony warrant for controlled substance out of Alamosa with a $50,000 bond and a misdemeanor $1,000 warrant out of Rio Grande County.
Archuleta positioned himself at the Columbia Street Trailhead, along with Sheriff’s Deputy Mike Swartz, while off-duty officer Aaron Fresquez, from Center Police, went around to the Pine Street trailhead and State Trooper Gary Allen stayed at the Spruce Street trailhead.
Wilcox was always in sight of the officers as he continued along the trail, passing the turn off to the summit and walking on down toward where the building housing the town water supply is stored and treated. Wilcox and the officers stayed in communication by yelling at one another.
“I was able to convince him to come down after telling him the whole mountain was surrounded and he had no place to go,” said Archuleta. “The suspect later told me that he went up the mountain because he didn’t think law enforcement would follow him up the steep trail.”
Before Wilcox came down from his location a few hundred yards up the Columbia Street trail, he was refusing to put his hands on his head.
“He kept sticking his hands in his pockets and not obeying our commands,” said Archuleta. “It’s a classic threat against officers and if he is going to hurt us, it will come from his hands.”
Deputy Swartz took an AR-15 rifle out of his vehicle and trained it on Wilcox from the driveway parking area of the home of Milcah Hawk and Tom Tichy, whose house is at the base of Lookout Mountain and right where the trail begins. Neither was home at the time.
Archuleta said the distance between Wilcox and the officers was greater than the accuracy of a side-arm and that is why Deputy Swartz deployed the long rifle to get a better shot, if he had to.
Wilcox indicated he only wanted Archuleta to apprehend him because he grew up in Del Norte and knew the sergeant. After Wilcox was taken into custody by Archuleta, he was brought to the Rio Grande County Jail.
“We were prepared for the worst, but it worked out for the best,” said Deputy Swartz. “He didn’t hurt us and we didn’t have to hurt him. It was another call, another day. He was placed safely into custody and we all get to go home safe. That’s what is important to me.”
State Trooper Bill Houde also assisted.