An Olympia man was arrested after high-speed police pursuit ended with the suspect’s vehicle striking the NAPA Auto Parts building in downtown Chehalis shortly after midnight on Tuesday.
Denver Bragg, 39, of Olympia, was booked into the Lewis County Jail after he allegedly shot at pursuing Lewis County Sheriff’s Office deputies who had been attempting to stop him as part of an investigation into a stolen firearm.
The pursuit began just after 11 p.m. on May 3 in the 1400 block of U.S. Highway 12 when a silver Ford Taurus drove by two deputies parked in separate patrol cars. One of the deputies reportedly identified the vehicle as one associated with an active warrant, according to court documents, and the two deputies began to follow the Taurus. The Taurus reportedly sped up to over 100 mph before deputies activated their lights and sirens and officially began pursuit.
“Deputies pursued the vehicle for miles, during which the driver of the Taurus ran stop signs, crossed over the centerline numerous times, and turned off its running lights in an attempt to lose the deputies,” according to court documents.
The pursuit continued onto Jackson Highway, where one of the deputies observed the driver “turn his body to the left and raise one of his hands, which appeared to have an item in it.”
The deputy then heard “three consecutive loud noises that he believed was the discharge of a firearm” and heard a fourth discharge shortly after.
It was later discerned that Bragg had shot three to four rounds from his moving vehicle — striking a patrol vehicle — after evading spike strips near the corner of Spencer Road and Jackson Highway.
“Luckily, our deputies are safe,” said Lewis County Sheriff’s Office Field Operations Chief Dusty Breen in an interview with The Chronicle at the scene of the arrest.
The pursuit continued onto Hart Road, where a deputy reportedly saw Bragg “throw an item out of the vehicle, which struck the ground and created sparks as it slid across the road.”
A cell phone was thrown out of the vehicle near W.F. West High School before the pursuit continued onto Market Street in downtown Chehalis.
Near the intersection of Market and Main streets, deputies utilized PIT maneuver — a technique where the pursuing vehicle hits the rear bumper of the suspect vehicle to immobilize the suspect vehicle — and Bragg's vehicle collided with the corner of NAPA Auto Parts, bringing the chase to an end shortly before 12:30 a.m. on May 4.
Bragg reportedly “refused to obey commands to get on the ground” and so “he was taken to the ground,” according to court documents.
Bragg was medically cleared at the jail prior to booking, Breen said.
Deputies searched the vehicle and found .380 casings, but no firearm. The cellphone was located on 16th Street and deputies are still searching for the firearm.
“If anyone from the public happens to come across items that they find suspicious that may have been thrown during the pursuit, please contact our office so we can investigate it further,” said Breen.
NAPA Auto Parts’ Chehalis store was closed the following morning while a contractor inspected the damage. A building inspector gave the store clearance for building occupancy around 11 a.m. Tuesday, said owner Dave Wilson, and the store has reopened. The business doesn’t yet have an estimated cost for repairs.
Bragg is currently being held at the Lewis County Jail and has been charged with three counts of first-degree assault and one count each of drive-by shooting, attempting to elude a pursuing police vehicle and unlawful possession of a firearm.
Judge Joely O’Rourke granted the deputy prosecutor’s request to set Bragg’s bail at $750,000, citing concerns about Bragg’s criminal history, which includes five prior felony convictions and 11 prior warrants, and concerns about community safety.
“The court is concerned based not only on the allegations here that you were fleeing law enforcement … but also based on the allegation that there was a firearm used,” said O’Rourke to Bragg at his preliminary hearing on May 4, adding that the affidavit contains “substantial showing that you would be a threat to community safety” if released from jail.
His next court appearance is an arraignment hearing scheduled for May 6.