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Colorado Springs man faces 25 years in prison for drug, gun crimes, carjacking

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Posted at 12:46 PM, Dec 03, 2018
and last updated 2018-12-03 14:49:33-05

DENVER — A Colorado Springs man who spurred a police pursuit and escaped, but not before authorities found a whole slew of drugs and guns that were in his possession, was sentenced to prison Thursday.

Colorado Springs resident Miguel Lerma Cruz, who also goes by Danny Ortega, pleaded guilty to drug and gun crimes, as well as carjacking, and was sentenced Thursday to 25 years in federal prison, according to Department of Justice. 

The 39-year-old man was first charged by criminal complaint on Oct. 17, 2017. He was then indicted on Oct. 26 and pleaded guilty on Nov. 29.

Based on stipulated facts from the plea agreement, Colorado Springs police responded to a report of a disturbance on May 29, 2017 at the El Ranchito Meat Market in Colorado Springs. A woman had called police and said Cruz had threatened her at the market. She said he reached for his waistline and held what appeared to have been the handle of a firearm. After he left the store, the woman called police.

When officers arrived on scene, they saw Cruz in a white Dodge pickup truck in the parking lot. When they tried to contact him, he drove into a marked police patrol vehicle and fled the scene.

Officers started to pursue the vehicle through heavily populated areas of the city. Cruz ran a red light and struck two vehicles, disabling the pickup truck he was driving. He got out of the truck and dropped a 9mm handgun on the ground. He was carrying an AR-15-type rifle and ran up to a woman sitting in an Acura sedan. He took her car and fled the scene. Though officers continued to pursue him, they eventually lost him.

Detectives recovered the pickup and handgun from the crash scene.

The firearm had been reported as stolen from a residence in Brattleboro, Vermont.

In addition to the car and firearm, authorities also recovered a blue tote bag that contained more than 270 grams of heroin, about 623 grams of methamphetamine, ammunition and $20,000 in cash. An additional $10,000 was found in the center console.

An investigation revealed that a Saturn sedan Cruz had used earlier that day contained a Ruger Mini 14 rifle and loaded magazine for an AR-15 rifle in the trunk. Another loaded magazine was located in the front passenger seat, as well as a gun cleaning kit, a plastic big with a small amount of cocaine, three boxes of 12-gauge shotgun shells, one box of 9mm ammunition and four spent .40 shell casings.

Those shell casings were analyzed and matched two earlier shootings, including a homicide.

For several days, authorities were unable to locate Cruz.

On June 1, 2017, just a few days after the initial incident, detectives found him in a white Camaro in Colorado Springs. Officers with the Colorado Springs Police Department Tactical Enforcement Unit took him into custody.

After obtaining a search warrant for the Camaro, detectives found about that he was in possession of $4,000 and an AR-15-style rifle with a sawed-off handle.

U.S. Attorney Jason R. Dunn said Cruz went on a crime spree that injured and endangered people.

“The Colorado Springs Police Department and the ATF did an outstanding job working to identify, locate and arrest this dangerous individual,” he said.

Debbie Livingston, ATF Denver Special Agent in Charge, said Cruz was a threat to the community, and authorities are proud to put him behind bars.