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It all started last month at a Speedway gas station in Shiprock after a 911 caller reported a man pulled a gun on her. Shawn Thomas, 36, was behind the wheel of a stolen Toyota Corolla. Shiprock police caught up with Thomas and chased him until he crossed out of the Navajo Nation on Highway 64.
That’s where San Juan County deputies picked up the chase. They first threw down stop stocks. That then sent the Corolla skidding down the highway but it didn’t stop Thomas, who continued to flee. From the video, it looked like Thomas might surrender a few times. However, each time he takes off again, leaving a trail of shredded tires.
As he makes a U-turn, the sheriff’s office says Thomas brandished a gun out the window. They say Thomas stopped again and briefly got out, reached for his waistband before getting back in the car. That’s when the sheriff’s office says a deputy saw him point the gun toward another deputy. The car then starts to move but Thomas is hit by gunfire. The car then crashed into a tree.
Deputies pulled Thomas out of the car, but the sheriff’s office says they left the gun inside for the sake of the investigation. However, the car caught on fire. Despite efforts to put it out the car went up in flames, taking all evidence including Thomas’ weapon with it. The sheriff’s office now believes that the gun was a replica. Thomas died at the scene.
Officials say he had a violent criminal past, serving three stints in prison, along with a history of violence toward law enforcement. He also had pending assault charges for pointing a gun at a Farmington family in June. The sheriff’s office and the county’s officer-involved shooting task force are still investigating.