Police: Drug smugglers intended to run officer off road - MyFoxAustin.com | KTBC Fox 7 | News, Weather, Sports

Police: Drug smugglers intended to run officer off road

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CHANDLER, Ariz. -

A police officer was nearly forced off the road during a routine traffic stop because officers say the driver's car was filled with marijuana.

When a lone officer tried to pull over a Ford F-150 pickup truck for speeding on Sunday, he was nearly forced off of State Route 347 through Chandler.

"He looked in his rear view mirror and saw a vehicle trying to ram him," said Bart Graves, with the Department of Public Safety.

"I've seen this tactic before, where the heat vehicle is doing something to distract the officer from going after the load vehicle."

The heat vehicle was a Nissan Titan truck with a male driver going about 80 mph. The driver was trying to prevent the officer from stopping the other vehicle.

The officer took evasive action and avoided a collision. In the meantime, the Nissan truck pulled over and several people ran into the desert. The Ford F-150 and a Cadillac Escalade sped away.

"This is unusual, to try to run a patrol vehicle off the road, endangering the officer. Thank goodness our officers are okay," said Graves.

Officers believe this was a rehearsed tactic intended to be more dangerous, but the female driver of the load vehicle panicked.

"The female tries to turn her car to try to ram our officer but she changed her mind and got back on the road and starts going," said Graves.

The Ford F-150 and the Escalade were later stopped in the Phoenix metro area -- the Escalade was full of 215 pounds of marijuana, with a street value of $100,000. Officers also seized 11.5 grams of methamphetamine.

It seems SR 347 is commonly used for criminal activity, but DPS said smugglers won't be able to sneak through just because they're staying off the interstate.

"They'd be incorrect because with our partners with Border Patrol and Chandler Police, we are there on the highways and we're looking for them," said Graves.

Eight occupants of the Ford F-150, the Nissan truck, and the Cadillac were arrested. The driver of the Nissan truck that tried to ram the DPS vehicle is still at large, DPS said Monday.

Three suspects were booked into the 4th Ave Jail on charges of: participating in a criminal enterprise, transportation of marijuana for sale and possession of dangerous drugs. Five suspects, possibly illegal immigrants, were turned over to the U.S. Border Patrol.  Their names were not released.

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