Jay Vallego

Jay Vallego

POLSON — A Missoula man is facing felony charges following a high-speed chase that began in Polson and ended on a country road south of Pablo.

Jay Vallego, 28, allegedly stole a car in Missoula and burglarized a garage in the early-morning hours of Tuesday before driving to Polson. On his way there, Vallego allegedly stopped in Ronan to write some checks that he had picked up somewhere along the way.

Polson Police Sgt. George Simpson said two Polson police officers attempted to make a routine traffic stop after encountering Vallego at about 7 p.m. near St. Joseph’s Hospital. The attempt to pull Vallego over occurred after he failed to dim his headlights.

When the officer got out of his vehicle, Simpson said Vallego sped off.

“He had initially come from Missoula where he had stolen a car about 4:30 a.m.,” Simpson said. “The victim had been outside a bit earlier to start her car to allow it to warm up before she left for work. He grabs the car, sees a garage open and starts loading up stuff. Somewhere along the way, he got a checkbook and wrote some checks in Polson. That all happened before he made it up to Polson.”

After Vallego fled, the officers followed at speeds up to 60 mph through town after confirming the vehicle was stolen. Once outside of Polson, the chase ramped up to speeds nearing 100 mph as Polson police were joined by officers from the Lake County Sheriff’s Office, Flathead Tribal Police, Ronan Police Department and the Montana Highway Patrol.

Vallego turned on Clairmont Road in Pablo where he successfully avoided stop sticks.

Simpson said the suspect apparently didn’t know the road dead-ended at the base of the Mission Mountains.

Vallego drove off the road several times through fields, a yard and an irrigation ditch. Eventually, his vehicle was stopped after striking some rocks in a local resident’s yard.

“Basically, he didn’t know where he was going,” Simpson said. “Clairmont is an old farm road that goes east and dead-ends. Once he got to the end of the end of the road, he realized that he had made a bad turn. He was very cooperative when it was all over.”

“Thank goodness no one got hurt,” Simpson said. “We all were very fortunate.”

Vallego has yet to appear in Lake County District Court. He faces a felony charge for motor vehicle theft and misdemeanor counts for fleeing or eluding police and reckless driving. Additional charges may be pending.

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