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Alleged car thief arrested after reckless drive through Little Cottonwood Canyon

Published: Saturday, Dec. 8 2012 9:01 p.m. MST

HOLLADAY — A man is behind bars after fleeing police in an allegedly stolen Mercedes and driving recklessly through Little Cottonwood Canyon and residential areas.

Police say Derek Thompson, 26, took a Mercedes AMG for a test drive Wednesday and then stole it.

Friday night, Thompson checked into the Cliff Lodge at Snowbird Ski and Summer Resort with cash, according to Emily Moench, a Snowbird spokeswoman. By Saturday morning, he had run up $550 in charges to the hotel room.

The front desk called Thompson to the desk, along with Snowbird public safety officers, and asked him to pay the charges. The man said his credit card was in his car, and he told them he would go get it.

Instead, Thompson got into the stolen Mercedes and left the resort.

Snowbird alerted the Alta Marshal's Office to the situation just before 10 a.m. Saturday. Officers spotted the vehicle, but Thompson refused to stop and instead sped off down Little Cottonwood Canyon.

Because of safety concerns, Alta officers didn't pursue, but they alerted Unified Police that a Mercedes traveling dangerously fast would be coming out of the canyon.

Several UPD officers attempted to stop the vehicle in the valley, but they were unable to keep up with the speeding car.

Unified Police Lt. Justin Hoyal said the AMP is an "extremely fast" car, and officers decided not to continue to pursue Thompson because of his reckless driving.

Even though he wasn't being pursued, Hoyal said Thompson continued to drive extremely fast, reaching nearly 80 mph in residential areas.

An off-duty police officer near 2100 East and Fardown Avenue (6000 South) in Holladay heard about the high-speed chase over his personal radio, Hoyal said. The officer pulled over and told a jogger to get off the side of the road.

The officer then heard the Mercedes and saw that Thompson was still driving recklessly. The officer pulled his truck in front of the jogger just before the fishtailing Mercedes crashed into him and veered into a bridge.

Thompson exited the crashed vehicle and fled on foot, over the bridge and through a canal.

Unified Police officers arrived at the scene and, along with the off-duty officer, began chasing Thompson. They were able to apprehend him with use of a stun gun.

"The action of the officer this day, as he pulled his truck in front of that jogger, probably saved her life," Hoyal said. "The actions that he took were, in my opinion, heroic."

Thompson was booked into the Salt Lake County Jail for investigation of several charges, including stealing a motor vehicle, a second-degree felony; fleeing an officer and causing property damage, assault on a police officer, and possession of a controlled substance, all third-degree felonies; and theft of services, resisting a peace officer, possession of marijuana, and failure to yield right-of-way, all misdemeanors.

Contributing: Celeste Rosnelof, Roger Cary

Twitter: @FinleyJY

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