Cuffed suspect taken into Davis County custody hours after escaping into frozen night

Austin Russell. Photo: Davis County

DAVIS COUNTY, Utah, Oct. 31, 2019 (Gephardt Daily) — A man who spent the night hiding from police with his hands cuffed behind his back is in custody in the Davis County Jail.

The resulting search, involving multiple officers and agencies from two counties, lasted from about 1 a.m. to 5:30 a.m., and left two police dogs suffering from the exposure to the bitter cold temperatures.

Austin Russell, 26, was booked into the Davis County Jail Thursday morning on suspicion of:

  • Receiving or transfer a stolen vehicle, a second-degree felony
  • Failure to stop or respond at the command of police, a third-degree felony
  • Escape from official custody, a third-degree felony
  • Possession by an inmate of prohibited items in a correctional or mental health facility, a third-degree felony
  • Theft, a class A misdemeanor
  • Reckless driving, a class A misdemeanor

Liz Sollis, spokeswoman for the Davis Sheriff’s Office, says the incident happened in south Weber County when an off-duty officer from the Woods Cross Police Department noticed a car that was “blacked out,” with no lights.

“He pulled up to check it, like any officer would, to make sure the community was safe,” Sollis said.

The driver, later identified as Russell, sped off, and the officer gave chase.

“Mr. Russell committed multiple traffic violations and drove at extreme speeds to avoid apprehension,” the suspect’s probable cause statement says.

Russell ultimately drove into a rocky area and crashed, Sollis said.

“He started to run, and the Woods Cross officer got out of his vehicle, deployed his dog, and was able to handcuff the suspect with his hands behind his back,” she said.

A struggle ensued, and the suspect took off into a gravel pit area, Sollis said. Additional support was called in, and officers from the Woods Cross, Clinton and Centerville police departments responded, as did officers from the Weber and Davis county sheriff’s offices and the Utah Highway Patrol. The Department of Public Safety responded with a helicopter to join the search.

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Two police dogs helped with the search, Sollis said.

Rony, from the DCSO, was covered with ice after the search, she said.

Ranger, from the Woods Cross Police Department, was later treated for frostbite to the tips of both ears, WCPD Chief Chad Soffe confirmed to Gephardt Daily.

“It was really cold last night, about 14 degrees, lower with the wind chill,” Sollis said. She estimated the wind chill adjustment put the temperature at -4 degrees.

Officials ended their search at about 5:30 a.m. About half an hour later, officials started getting calls regarding a suspicious-looking man with his hands behind his back, Sollis said.

“One of our detectives was in the area and apprehended him,” she said. “He was freezing, obviously, and there were some concerns for his medical condition. An ambulance took him to the hospital for hypothermia.”

The arresting officer gave Russell a chance to declare any contraband and denied that he had any illegal substances on him, the probable cause statement says. As he was booked into jail, meth was found in his pants pocket.

Officials also learned that the vehicle driven by Russell was stolen out of Murray, and the plates also were stolen. A dog was located in the crashed car, and was picked up by county animal authorities.

“We don’t know if the dog was stolen,” Sollis said.

When found, Russell was wearing tan pants and a thin black jacket, Sollis said.

“He was not dressed to spend time in the great outdoors.”

Police K9s Ranger (left), from the Woods Cross Police Department, and Rony, from the Davis County Sheriff’s Office, are shown in file photos from the Woods Cross PD and DCSO’s Instagram page.

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