[Photos courtesy of the Moab City Police Department]

A local hotel was briefly evacuated last week when two people who were wanted in connection with an armed home invasion and aggravated motor vehicle theft in Colorado were arrested in Moab.

Authorities cleared out the Days Inn one day after a detective with the Greeley Police Department in Colorado informed them that Michael A. Vieyra, 25, and Katherine Cathey, 34, were believed to be staying there.

Vieyra, who is known to be affiliated with the Norteño gang, has an extensive prior criminal history, including convictions for burglary, assault, aggravated motor vehicle theft and multiple weapons-related offenses, according to a police report.

The suspects reportedly arrived in a white GMC pickup that was allegedly stolen in Montrose, Colorado, on Thursday, March 15, and hotel staffers confirmed that the two individuals were inside the Days Inn.

Moab City Police officers established and maintained surveillance of the hotel throughout the evening of Friday, March 16, and into the morning of Saturday, March 17.

“We were surveilling this location for well over 18 hours,” Moab City Police Chief Jim Winder told the Moab Sun News.

At about 9 a.m. on March 17, officers evacuated hotel guests and staff in an effort to ensure their safety as law enforcement prepared to make contact with the suspects.

The hotel had been fully occupied earlier that morning, with more than 100 guests on the premises, by Winder’s estimates. To minimize any disturbances, officers held off on the evacuation until only 25 to 30 guests remained; those people were escorted out of the building over the course of about 30 to 40 minutes.

“We waited for many people to leave voluntarily,” Winder said. “We didn’t want to alarm people.”

Police made an extra effort for hotel guests who required additional help.

“We had some elderly folks that needed assistance, and also some folks with young children that needed support,” Winder said.

Shortly after other guests at the hotel had been evacuated, Vieyra reportedly exited his room, and officers who had been assigned to monitor the room immediately confronted him. According to a police report on the incident, Vieyra retreated into the room and attempted to barricade the door. Officers breached the door and pursued the suspect as he allegedly fled through a hotel window on foot; they detained Cathey in the room without further incident.

Vieyra reportedly ran through the hotel’s parking lot, jumped a fence and unsuccessfully attempted to enter a parked vehicle in an adjacent lot. He then entered a second parked vehicle and hid until a bystander directed officers to him.

Officers approached a white Ford F150, where they allegedly found Vieyra with a folding knife that was partially open in his left hand. He dropped the knife when police ordered him to put it down, and officers then extracted him from the vehicle and took him into custody without further incident.

He was booked for second-degree felony possession of a stolen vehicle and two third-degree felony counts of “possession of a dangerous weapon by a Category I restricted person (convicted of violent felony).” The suspect faces additional misdemeanor counts of failure to stop at the command of an officer, interference with an arresting officer, possession of drug paraphernalia and criminal mischief.

Under the law, Vieyra is presumed to be innocent unless or until a court convicts him of any charges.

Cathey, meanwhile, was taken into custody on outstanding warrants in Colorado.

“She did not encounter any new charges based on this operation,” Winder said.

Both suspects currently remain in custody at the Grand County Jail, pending their extradition from Utah.

“There will be some elements that will need to be addressed before they can be taken back to Colorado,” Winder said.

The Moab City Police Department managed its response to the incident with significant assistance from the San Juan County Sheriff’s Office, the Grand County Sheriff’s Office and the Utah Highway Patrol.

“Had we not had those other resources, our operational capabilities would have been greatly reduced,” Winder said.

Highway patrol troopers were there to aid the police department with tactical operations in the event that the suspects had fled. Authorities from San Juan County also stepped forward to help their counterparts in Moab who were busy preparing to ensure that the Canyonlands Half Marathon went off safely and smoothly.

“San Juan County, in particular, was amazingly gracious,” Winder said. “They provided us with support throughout the night.”

Hotel guest Teri Bryan Scott and her husband were among those who were evacuated. Her husband – who uses a walker – was among those who needed extra help, and she praised the officers for their response.

“We appreciated their bravery and caring attention to our welfare,” she said.

Moab resident and Advanced Emergency Medical Technician (AEMT) Tracy Lee Davis also hailed the department’s officers for their work that morning.

“All of this happened during our half marathon and the race wasn’t disrupted at all – you are all rock stars,” she said in a post on the department’s Facebook page.

Winder said he suspects that many half-marathon attendees weren’t even aware that the evacuation was under way, and that’s the way it should be.

“Our department managed what was a very dynamic scene at the same time that we were managing a major community event,” he said. “I’m very, very proud of them.”

Hotel briefly evacuated during March 17 incident