Steamboat Springs The Colorado State Patrol is looking for a man who walked out of Yampa Valley Medical Center early Saturday morning while recovering from minor injuries suffered Friday during a high-speed car chase and subsequent crash.
Authorities thought the suspect was 45-year-old Mark Nicholson. But it wasn't until after the man left the hospital in his nightgown at about 3 a.m. Saturday that troopers realized he had given them a false identity and that the car he crashed was stolen.
Colorado State Patrol Sgt. Scott Elliott said the driver was injured when the Lincoln sedan he was driving flipped over at the intersection of Routt County roads 14 and 14C. The crash ended a high-speed chase that began when troopers tried to pull him over Friday afternoon while heading east on U.S. Highway 40 over Rabbit Ears Pass. The driver flipped a U-turn and sped back down the pass and made a left turn onto Colorado Highway 131.
Trooper Rick Kaspar pursued the vehicle but couldn't keep up with it. Kaspar estimated the driver's speed at 120 mph during parts of the chase.
The suspect turned left onto C.R. 14 but lost control at the sharp turn at 14 and 14C. The car landed upside down in a field. Kaspar said the suspect kicked out the rear passenger window and exited the vehicle. He was arrested on scene.
Elliott said it is common practice to take suspects to the hospital for treatment and take them back into custody once they are released.
"When we transport someone to the hospital, we typically issue a warrant for their arrest for when they are discharged," said Elliott, who noted that Routt County Jail doesn't have the medical facilities to care for injured suspects and inmates. Elliott also said the State Patrol doesn't have the personnel to guard hospitalized suspects.
"When somebody is injured like this, we take them to the hospital to get treated," he said. "We know where they are, who they are and how to find them."
"We didn't have a hold on him there, and he was free to go at any point. He was under (medical) care of hospital."
Elliott stressed that it was not the responsibility of the hospital to guard the suspect.
Christine McKelvie, the hospital's spokeswoman, said the man was admitted in good condition and was kept overnight for observation. It is believed he walked out of the hospital before sunrise Saturday.
And with the suspect now gone, Elliott said investigators are unsure of his real identity, though they are pursuing several leads.
"We are not prepared to say it yet, but we have a pretty good idea on who he is. There are some things we are still following up on," Elliott said.
The man is facing charges of felony eluding and reckless driving in addition to possible charges of driving under the influence of alcohol, theft and providing a false identity.
"He has just vanished," Elliott said. Investigators do not know whether someone picked up the man from the hospital or how he fled the premises.
"He got up, left his clothes and walked out and left," he said. "But we are in contact with several people and may have learned who he is."