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Sun, March 24

Deadly Pursuit: Suspect's escalating behavior led to police manhunt

Robert James Dodd

Robert James Dodd

KINGMAN - The anonymous caller had good information.

He or she tipped off law enforcement to the whereabouts of Robert James Dodd, the subject of a manhunt that began several weeks earlier.

Dodd was in the area of Bull Mountain Road late in the afternoon of April 22, the day he allegedly killed Linda Chevalier following a high-speed pursuit involving officers and deputies who acted on the caller's information.

Dodd's capture was a top priority. The ex-convict was wanted for parole violation and his behavior had become increasingly unpredictable and violent.

Running from the cops, it seemed, had become a hobby for the man.

Looking for him was the Mohave County Gang and Immigration Intelligence Team Enforcement Mission, or GIITEM. The task force's members come from the Arizona Department of Public Safety, the Mohave County Sheriff's Office, and the Kingman, Lake Havasu City and Bullhead City police departments.

On the day Dodd was captured, representatives from all but Lake Havasu City and Bullhead City took part in the pursuit that ended in tragedy.

Urgent attempt to locate Dodd

It all began with DPS Sgt. Ernie Severson, a member of GIITEM. According to an interview he gave to a pair of DPS detectives the day after the crash, the search for Dodd was necessary. The man was a suspect in a shooting, an aggravated assault and other incidents - including other pursuits.

The previous month, a GIITEM detective attempted to stop a white van. The driver jumped out while it was still moving and the passenger took control and fled.

The man who jumped from the van told detectives that Dodd aimed a shotgun at him and threatened to kill him if he stopped for police.

The pursuit was terminated once Dodd drove erratically through school zones. The van was later found and a shotgun and handgun were recovered.

Before the chase that ended Chevalier's life, Dodd was allegedly involved in another pursuit with DPS highway patrol officers. He was reportedly driving a stolen Toyota Celica before "the trail went cold."

It was about this time that deputies with the Mohave County Sheriff's Office began hearing that Dodd told friends he wanted to commit "suicide by cop."

A special task force between the MCSO and the Kingman Police Department was formed with one objective: Find Dodd.

Severson said law enforcement discussions with Dodd's known associates yielded more allegations.

One man said Dodd stole a Chevrolet Impala from him, but one of the tires blew as he drove away, so he returned and reportedly took the man's Ford Explorer. Dodd allegedly told the man he would kill him if he reported the vehicle stolen.

According to Severson, everybody police talked to warned them that Dodd would be armed. None of them, however, would help find him.

On April 12, 10 days before the fatal pursuit, Dodd allegedly stole a pickup from a 17-year-old Golden Valley girl. Two GIITEM detectives spotted the truck and the driver fled.

It was later found abandoned and crashed into a fence, but Dodd allegedly returned and took the truck before it could be returned to the girl.

Later that day, Kingman police officers spotted Dodd in the truck and once again he fled, but not before he crashed into a police vehicle in making his getaway.

The day before the fatal pursuit, an MCSO deputy spotted Dodd driving the white Impala. Once again, Dodd got away.

His luck would turn for the worse in less than 24 hours - but Chevalier and her family would pay the price.

The anonymous call came in a day after Silent Witness announced a reward for information leading to Dodd's arrest. The tipster said Dodd was driving a white Nissan passenger car and that he could be located on Bull Mountain Road north of Kingman.

The chase

A pair of detectives spotted the 2011 Nissan Versa and caught up with the car. The driver turned onto Cactus Wren Road and sped away fast enough that the detectives eventually lost sight of the vehicle. Severson assigned units to go to a number of locations in northern Kingman, but he would be the one to locate Dodd.

Dodd, he said, began to pass other vehicles at a high rate of speed as Severson began to follow. He said Dodd drove even faster once he activated his lights and siren.

Severson at one point was in position to strike the Nissan with his vehicle, but Dodd acted like he was prepared to fire a gun. Severson backed off.

The chase continued down Stockton Hill Road as Dodd allegedly threw items from the car into Severson's path.

Dodd drove south in the northbound lanes down Stockton Hill Road, where he turned east onto Northern Avenue and continued to drive into oncoming traffic, causing motorists to dart out of the way.

According to DPS detective Carlos Cortez, who joined the pursuit at Stockton Hill Road and Northern Avenue, Dodd turned off Northern and then cut through a dirt field near Butler Avenue. Dodd traveled west on Butler and soon made his way to Packard Avenue. Cortez didn't follow. Instead, he went to Bond Street.

A few seconds later, Cortez said he witnessed Dodd run the stop sign and crash into Chevalier's blue Nissan Altima.

Injured, Dodd attempted to exit the vehicle and continue the chase on foot, but a Kingman officer drove his car into the Nissan Versa, knocking Dodd to the ground.

Dodd continued to struggle and Severson punched him in the face in order to get his hands cuffed. Dodd didn't ask about Chevalier, but he did ask them to help his passenger.

Cortez handcuffed Dodd's passenger, 25-year-old Brigitte Bartlett, and then checked on Chevalier.

Paramedics were on the way, but Chevalier's injuries were fatal.

Dodd and Bartlett were taken to St. Joseph's Hospital and Medical Center in Phoenix.

He was allegedly in possession of methamphetamine and heroin.


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