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Dougherty siblings captured in Colorado

George's Drive Inn in Walsenburg, Colo., was still bustling with the morning crowd Wednesday when one of the waitresses heard a gunshot.

"The cops are chasing someone," a waitress shouted. "Look, he's running!"

The officers were out front. The suspect ran around back. April Galassini, a waitress at George's, peeked out a side window near the kitchen. She saw a young man trying to hide in some brush. She could see him, but the officers could not. Galassini thought he must be a kid who got himself into a bit of trouble. He looked tired and scared. But then the stranger started walking toward the diner, with its red peaked roof, just off the main drag and famous for its chili burgers. The kid slowed near the building, as if he considered coming inside.

"Shut the door!" Galassini yelled to another waitress, who slammed it shut.

The kid kept going.

The diner's prep cook and a few customers trailed the young man to a bridge about a quarter mile away, all the while on their cell phones telling dispatchers where he was headed.

When officers took him down, the diner's good Samaritans were shocked to find out who they assisted in capturing:

One of the Dougherty brothers, either Ryan, 21, or Dylan, 26, both of whom who have been on the run with their older sister, Lee-Grace, a 29-year-old exotic dancer. All three have been the subject of a national manhunt for the past week.

The Dougherty (pronounced DOCK-er-ty) siblings have been on the lam since Aug. 2, when they are accused of shooting at a Zephyrhills police officer during a chase and then robbing a Georgia bank hours later. One of the masked robbers brandished an AK-47 assault rifle, firing into the ceiling, while a security camera photographed another waving a machine pistol.

The FBI labeled them armed and dangerous and posted billboards across the country telling citizens to not approach them. Pasco County Sheriff Chris Nocco made appearances on ABC's Good Morning America, CBS' Early Show, syndicated Inside Edition, and CNN and Fox News and talked of hunting them down. Investigators said they hoped the trio would turn themselves in, but prepared themselves for a shootout.

And it did end in gunfire. But the only people injured were the siblings.

The focus of the manhunt turned to Colorado on Tuesday, when the FBI received "credible information" that the siblings purchased a tent from an REI outdoor sporting goods store in Colorado Springs. They were driving a white Subaru Impreza, the same car used in the Zephyrhills chase and the Valdosta, Ga., bank robbery.

About 9 a.m. Wednesday, Colorado State Patrol troopers got a tip the siblings were spotted at a campground at the San Isabel National Forest. A Pueblo County sheriff's deputy sent to investigate saw a white Subaru sedan at a Subway and gas station near exit 74 on Interstate 25.

The deputy spotted one brother inside the car, which now had stolen Texas plates. He saw Lee-Grace leave the store.

He kept watch from his unmarked patrol car until a Colorado trooper arrived. That's when the Doughertys took off, authorities said.

The pursuit reached 120 mph. The siblings rained gunfire on the cruiser chasing them, Pueblo County Sheriff Kirk Taylor said.

The chase ended just outside Walsenburg, about 50 miles north of the New Mexico state line, after troopers deployed stop sticks across the interstate.

The car flipped and crumpled, a rear tire balanced on a guard rail, the car's nose in the weeds. As it spun, two AK-47 machine guns and an automatic pistol flew out of the sedan. Taylor said Lee-Grace tried to run for it, a MAC-11 in her hand, and was shot in the leg. Authorities did not know which brother stayed in the car and which one ran.

All three Dougherty siblings have been medically cleared and were being booked Wednesday evening into the Pueblo County jail, Taylor said.

Their mother, Barbara Bell, told a Times reporter Wednesday she did not want to comment. Her voice was faint and sounded shaky. Bell previously made public pleas for her children to turn themselves in.

"We knew it was going to be a shootout," Pasco Detective James Medley said. "We knew they weren't going to give up."

The siblings grew up in east central Florida but had been living in east Pasco for a few years.

Lee-Grace and Ryan both have numerous arrests. Ryan was convicted Aug. 1 for his latest offense: exchanging sexually explicit text messages with an 11-year-old girl, which made him a registered sex offender. Ryan cut off his ankle monitor and was fleeing when the Zephyrhills officer tried to stop him Aug. 2 for speeding, authorities said.

Officer Kevin Widener was not injured, although one shot blew out his left front tire.

Medley said the siblings' actions showed they were desperate and dangerous. After his sex offender sentencing, Ryan sent his mother a text message that said, "There's a time for all of us to die."

Authorities said they were grateful the pursuit ended without any officers getting hurt.

"Today has been a big relief," Zephyrhills police Chief David Shears said. "We are very happy with the outcome."

Times researchers Carolyn Edds and Shirl Kennedy and Times staff writer Lee Logan contributed to this report. Erin Sullivan can be reached at esullivan@sptimes.com or (727) 869-6229.

Correction

Zephyrhills police Officer Kevin Widener's name was misspelled in a previous version of this article.

Dougherty siblings captured in Colorado 08/10/11 [Last modified: Tuesday, September 13, 2011 7:04pm]
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