GILLETTE, Wyo. — Campbell County Sheriff’s Office deputies didn’t know that stopping a vehicle for a mismatch between vehicle and license plate the morning of Nov. 20 would lead to a high-speed chase around Gillette.
At about 7:10 a.m., a deputy who was patrolling northbound on Highway 50 from Clarkelen Road saw a white 2021 Ford Escape with a vehicle description that didn’t match its license plate, and conducted a traffic stop, Undersheriff Quentin Reynolds said. While checking whether the driver and passenger had any outstanding warrants or driving status issues, the deputy found that the registration didn’t match the vehicle, Reynolds said. The deputy called in backup, according to Reynolds.
When the backup deputy asked the driver, Zachary T. M. Stott, 29, and the passenger, a 44-year-old woman, to exit the vehicle, Stott put the vehicle in drive and the pursuit began, Reynolds said.
The deputies, in two marked Dodge Chargers, followed Stott, who drove northbound and drove into oncoming traffic several times, passed vehicles in the oncoming lane in a reckless manner and almost crashed head-on into a vehicle near Highway 50 and Moon Dancer Street, Reynolds said. He didn’t stop at at least a few red lights, and he exceeded the speed limit throughout the pursuit, Reynolds said. The pursuit speed was typically at or above 120 mph, with turns at roughly 70 mph, Reynolds said. For about 38 minutes, deputies chased the vehicle from Highway 50 to Highway 14-16 to Warlow Drive to Garner Lake Road to Southern Drive to Enzi Drive to Wrangler Road to Running W Drive to Shoshone Avenue to Brorby Boulevard to West 4-J to Oakcrest Drive through Burma Avenue, back to Warlow Drive to Pathfinder Circle, Reynolds said. During the pursuit, the driver and the passenger dumped bags out the window, Reynolds said.
Finally, the driver turned into Pathfinder Circle, stopped the vehicle on Pathfinder Circle and fled on foot for about 30 seconds for roughly 100 yards through a field toward Cherry Lane, near Pathfinder Park, Reynolds said.
The driver only had 17 more miles to go until the vehicle’s gas tank would be empty, Reynolds said.
He was arrested and transported to the detention center, Reynolds said. Stott was charged with littering, speeding, eluding an officer, interfering with officer, reckless driving and knowingly operating or permitting operation of a vehicle on any highway, unless a valid certificate of title/registration and license plates have been issued, according to the arrest log.
The woman, who stayed in the vehicle, was also arrested, Reynolds said. Her name hasn’t yet been released because as of the time of the media meeting, she’s solely been issued misdemeanors, Reynolds said.
The investigation is continuing and both the driver and the passenger might face additional charges, Reynolds said.
Vehicle descriptions rarely don’t match the license plate, Reynolds said. When they don’t match, it’s typically because of a computer error, he said. Changes in vehicles’ license plates might not immediately be processed, Reynolds said. Drivers who are stopped in those situations tend to tell deputies that they recently put the license plates onto the vehicle and present paperwork verifying that, he said. Campbell County Sheriff’s Office might also call the courts to confirm, Reynolds said.