A northern Arizona wildlife park was put on lockdown after a man fired at deputies while fleeing from a traffic stop and ran into the park, police say.
John Freeman, 31, who was called “armed and dangerous,” after running from deputies, the Yavapai County Sheriff’s Office said in a Facebook post.
The search for Freeman took into the Bearizona Wildlife Park, which was put on lockdown as a precaution.
Freeman was caught near the park hiding in a ditch, ABC 15 reports.
“Several law enforcement agencies and SWAT teams are coordinating search efforts in a large radius around I40 and milepost 165. If anyone sees the is suspect, call 911 immediately,” the sheriff’s office said.
The park is located in Williams, Arizona, near Flagstaff.
Two other suspects who were in the car with Freeman have been detained, the sheriff’s office says. Their names haven’t been released.
Here’s what you need to know:
1. Freeman Drove Away From Deputies at Speeds Over 100 Mph After a Passenger Was Thrown From His Vehicle
John Freeman drove away from deputies at speeds over 100 miles per hour after fleeing from a traffic stop, the Yavapai County Sheriff’s Office says.
The incident began about 10:45 a.m. when a K9 unit from the sheriff’s office tried to stop a maroon four-door sedan for a traffic violation on Interstate 40 east in the Ash Fork area.
“As the vehicle failed to yield, a male passenger appeared to be thrown from the vehicle and was detained,” the sheriff’s office said. “A K-9 unit continued following the vehicle as speeds in excess of 100 mph.”
Freeman’s vehicle then “apparently became disabled” and he pulled off the road at milepost 165 near the Bearizona park, police said, crashing into a culvert.
“This suspect fled from the vehicle and fired at least one shot towards deputies from a handgun,” the sheriff’s office said.
A third man was taken into custody at the scene of the crash. The names of the two men who were taken into custody have not been released.
2. He Was Possibly Injured in the Crash & Police Warned People Not to Pick Up Strangers
The sheriff’s office said Williams might have been injured in the crash.
He is 6 foot, weighs 170 pounds and has hazel eyes and brown hair. Police say he is believed to be wearing a denim shirt and denim pants. He has a tattoo on his left arm.
“This suspect is ARMED AND DANGEROUS,” the sheriff’s office said on Facebook. “If anyone sees the is suspect, call 911 immediately. DO NOT PICK UP HITCHHIKERS IN THIS AREA.”
Police called it a “fluid situation.”
The Williams Police Department, Coconino County Sheriff’s Office and Arizona Department of Public Safety are assisted in the search for Freeman.
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3. Freeman Is Wanted on a Warrant Out of Kingman & Was Accused of Stealing a Truck With His Husband in January
Freeman is wanted on a warrant out of Kingman, Arizona, the sheriff’s office said. Details of that warrant were not released.
Freeman and his husband, Gideon Eads, were arrested in Oregon in January on charges they stole a truck and trailer from the parking lot of a Walmart store in Cave Junction, KAJO-TV reports. They were living in Grants Pass at the time.
They were stopped by police while driving the stolen Budget truck, the news station reported. They were charged with unauthorized use of a motor vehicle. He pleaded guilty to the felony charge and was sentenced to 7 days in jail. But he has an active warrant in Josephine County, Oregon, for a probation violation in that case, online court records show.
His husband, Eads, has also pleaded guilty and received the same sentence. There is no warrant for his arrest in Oregon.
Freeman has several convictions on drug and traffic-related criminal charges, according to public records.
He pleaded guilty to possession/use of drug paraphernalia in February 2014 in Lake Havasu City Municipal Court in Arizona.
Freeman pleaded guilty in Kingman Municipal Court to possession of drug paraphernalia in June 2016. He has two other convictions in Arizona for driving with a suspended license.
He also has convictions for driving with a suspended license and other traffic violations in Illinois.
According to his Facebook page, he is a resident of Kingman. He is originally from Albion, Illinois, and works as a cosmetologist, according to his Facebook page.
Freeman has also lived in Montana and has been married to his husband since 2015.
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4. Bearizona Officials Say About 200 People Were in the Park & They Have Been Evacuated Safely
Bearizona officials said there are about 200 visitors and staff members locked down in the nature park, KPNX-TV reports.
“We are currently on lock-down. There is a possible armed and dangerous suspect on premises. All staff and visitors are currently safe,” Bearizona said in a Facebook post about 1 p.m. “No visitors are able to enter the park and we are working with local law enforcement agencies to evacuate visitors in a safe manner. Thank you for all the concern.”
In an update about an hour later, Bearizona said, “All staff and visitors have now been successfully evacuated from the park. Police are still searching for the suspect. Thanks to the multi agency police presence during this very scary ordeal. We will update everyone with any information as it becomes available to us. Prayers they catch the suspect soon and that all law enforcement officers stay safe!”
Police are escorting visitors out in small groups with officers escorting them, officials said.
The wildlife park is located in northern Arizona.
“Bearizona is approximately 160 acres. Visitors will drive through more than three miles of Ponderosa Pine Forest viewing North American animals in natural habitats when they visit,” its website says. “More animals are exhibited in Fort Bearizona, a beautiful 20 acre walk-thru area, along winding paths which is more of a “zoo” type setting.”
The park has been open since 2010, and sees more than 300,000 visitors a year, the Arizona Republic reports.
Along with bears, the park is home to wolves, bison and other wildlife.
“Animals are all safe and sound as of now, thanks so much for your care and concern,” the park said on Facebook.
5. Schools in the Williams Area Were Also Locked Down During the Search for Freeman
Schools in the Williams area were locked down during the search for Freeman, the Yavapai County Sheriff’s Office said.
People inside nearby businesses were asked to shelter in place. The lockdowns were only a precaution, officials say.
The search has also impacted traffic on local roads, and at Grand Canyon National Park.