Chase leaves 1 dead, 3 injured

Two suspects were caught after the vehicle they were driving crashed into two others on Interstate 270.

By George Merritt
Denver Post Staff Writer
August 29, 2005

Arvada - One man was shot and another person killed when two alleged car thieves trying to elude the police crashed on an interstate early Sunday.

The two fled the scene of the crash, but by afternoon, police said they arrested Matthew Wartena, 20, and a 16-year-old in the crimes. The pair face a barrage of charges, including vehicular homicide and attempted homicide, Arvada police spokeswoman Susan Medina said.

The trouble began about 1 a.m. when a man spotted two people acting strangely.
“They were getting in and out of cars up and down the street,” said the man, who asked not to be identified for fear of retaliation.

When they drove away in a red Honda, the man called police and followed them in his own car.

He relayed their location to authorities as he tailed them for about 4 miles.

At West 67th Avenue and Otis Street, the chase turned violent.

“I was right up on them,” the man said, “then one popped out with a shotgun and just, boom.”

The man following ducked toward the passenger seat in his car as his windshield shattered, but two pellets from the shotgun hit him on the left side.

“He was trying to kill me,” the man said. “There’s no doubt in my mind.”

He said the shooter had tied a bandanna around his face just below his eyes, hiding his identity.

The man said he did not know he had been hit until an officer arrived and pointed out his bloodstained shirt.

Arvada police spotted the stolen car at West 72nd Avenue and Pierce Street and began a chase down Sheridan Boulevard and east on Interstate 76.

When the stolen car exited I-76 onto Interstate 270, it collided with two other vehicles and sent one, a Toyota 4Runner with five people inside, over the median, where it rolled into oncoming traffic.

One man inside the 4Runner was killed. Two others were taken to Denver Health Medical Center. Two people in the third vehicle, a Ford truck, were uninjured.

Police did not identify the people involved.

The two people inside the stolen Honda ran off.

Officers with several agencies set a perimeter around the area and began searching for the men with dogs.

“I’ve been here for 81 years,” said nearby resident Joe De Pinto, 82. “I’ve never seen anything like this happen. The police were all over here.”

As the last officers cleared the perimeter Sunday, a deputy spotted Wartena and the juvenile.

They surrendered without incident, according to a news release.

With two people in custody, the man who was shot was able to snicker over the fact that he had lost his car to evidence.

“I just got it back,” he said. “Someone stole it a month ago. That’s probably why I did what I did.”

Still, with one man dead and others in the hospital, the man said he wondered how a 16- year-old could be implicated in such violent acts.

“I want to know which one it was that shot me,” he said. “I’ll be in court, that’s for sure.”