MIAMI — A Grove man suspected of being involved in several vehicle thefts in the area, some at gunpoint, is in custody after a long pursuit in Ottawa County Monday.
Frank Espinoza, 33, led officers on a long pursuit and is suspected of being involved with several auto thefts that included armed robbery in two states, Ottawa County Sheriff Jeremy Floyd said.
“We had been looking for this individual because he had been identified by witnesses that had seen him approach a property,” Floyd said. “We are still putting all the pieces together, but there are four to five different autos or utility vehicles involved that were stolen from that part of the county or just right over in McDonald County.
“We had been looking for him all weekend long and the Oklahoma Highway Patrol (OHP) had gotten into a pursuit with him and, I think, McDonald County got into a pursuit with him over the weekend, but lost him.”
The sheriff and his officers were out looking for the suspect pretty “hot and heavy” Monday morning and actually located a vehicle he was suspected of stealing. It was recovered off 205 Road and Cayuga Road.
Officers started saturating the area looking for him after, it is believed, he stole a Gator at gunpoint in the southern part of the county and then drove the Gator over to a location in Missouri, then stole the truck that he was ultimately caught in, according to Floyd.
“We actually came in contact with him on the back roads at about 235 Road and Cayuga Road,” Floyd said. “We initiated a traffic stop then got into a pursuit and one thing led to another.
“I’m the one that saw him on that road initially so I initiated the pursuit. He fired a couple of rounds at me during the pursuit and a couple of rounds at others in the chase; we don’t know exactly how many, but there was a total of six rounds missing from the magazine. Of course we don’t know exactly how many rounds were in the magazine to begin with.
Floyd said Espinosa also fired on some Wyandotte Nation officers that were assisting and they fired back. No one was struck. The suspect’s vehicle was struck, but no one was injured.
After about a 20-minute pursuit, the OHP joined the chase and pitted the suspect at Cayuga Road by the new bridge that commissioners put in not too long ago. Ultimately, the suspect crashed and took off on foot with the sheriff and other officers giving chase and apprehending him, according to Floyd.
“The scary part of it was that, when he was on foot, we didn’t know if he was still armed or if he had left it (the gun) in the truck, but all of the witnesses that had seen him previously said that the gun was placed at his waistline in the front,” Floyd said.
“Of course, when we actually caught him he was on his stomach with his arms under him so we had to try to get his hands out just in case he did have the gun. Once we actually got him in custody and constraints we found that he had the holster on his waist, but the gun was not there,” Floyd said.
“When we looked at the truck, there was the gun. What it looked like to us is that he had the gun in the holster and, when he crashed, the gun came out. During the foot chase he was reaching for the gun he didn’t realize he had lost. Once we looked at the whole scenario we believe that he was trying to draw the gun, but there was no gun there. It’s a good thing because he would have drawn that weapon on us and that would have been a bad deal. The good thing is that everyone went home safe; the bad guy went to jail and we all went on our way,” Floyd continued.
If you feel that you have been a victim of a crime that the suspect could have been involved with, you are asked to contact the Ottawa County Sheriff’s Office, 918-542-2806.