Fugitive for 40 Years for Shooting Police Officer Finally Captured
A former Colorado police officer’s quest to find the fugitive who shot him nearly half a century ago said his efforts paid off Wednesday when FBI agents and Española police arrested a man who had been living in the city under an alias for 40 years.
The FBI announced in a news release that 77-year-old Lawrence Pusateri, aka Luis Archuleta, who had escaped from a Colorado prison in 1974, was arrested at his home in Española, where he had been living under a third name, Ramon Montoya.
The escape was Pusateri’s second. He had been serving a prison sentence for shooting then-rookie Denver Officer Daril Cinquanta on Oct. 3, 1971 — after Pusateri had escaped from a California prison.
Cinquanta said in an interview Wednesday evening he never gave up on his mission to find Pusateri. He had been tracking the man for 46 years when he finally got the tip that led him right to the fugitive’s front door.
“I have been making phone calls all this time to family, friends, acquaintances. I have been calling people,” Cinquanta said. “Of course, I have met stone walls, but on the 24th of June, I get a call from a person I had talked to previously.”
Days later, a new federal arrest warrant was issued for Pusateri by the U.S. District Court for the District of Colorado, charging him with escape and fleeing.
After doing some homework, Cinquanta said, he was able to verify that Pusateri, then going by Roman Montoya, had been arrested in 2011 in Rio Arriba County on a charge of drunken driving.
According to court records, Pusateri pleaded not guilty to one count each of aggravated DWI and failure to maintain his lane of traffic. The case was dismissed about six months later when the arresting officer failed to appear in court.
Although he was not able to find Pusateri’s fingerprint card from the arrest, Cinquanta said, he did have his picture, which he gave to Española police Lt. Abraham Baca and the FBI.
After a monthlong investigation, officers arrested Pusateri at the home he shared with his wife in Española.
His wife declined to speak to The New Mexican about the arrest.
Although Pusateri denied his identity during the arrest, Cinquanta said, officers were able to identify him by his tattoos.
Pusateri was an escapee from a prison in Soledad, Calif., when Cinquanta saw him sitting in the front passenger seat of a car with two women in Denver in 1971, according to a letter the officer wrote to the television show America’s Most Wanted.
Pusateri’s case appeared on the show twice, in 2009 and 2010.
Cinquanta said he immediately had a bad feeling about Pusateri, who identified himself as Luis Archuleta.
When he asked him to get out of the car, Cinquanta said, Pusateri shot him in the stomach and fled.
It would be about two years before Pusateri was convicted of assault on a police officer with a deadly weapon.
He had fled to Mexico, Cinquanta said, where “he got into a firefight with federales and they caught him.”
After getting himself to an American consulate, Pusateri told officials he had shot an officer in Denver, and he was sent back to the U.S., Cinquanta said. “We get him back, we go to trial and he gets convicted to nine and a half to 14 years for shooting me.”
The year after his conviction, Pusateri claimed he had an illness and was taken to a hospital in Pueblo, Colo., where he and another inmate took a guard hostage at gunpoint, “and out they go to a waiting vehicle and make the escape,” Cinquanta said.
In addition to his detective work, Cinquanta credits Baca, the Española lieutenant, and the FBI with Pusateri’s arrest.
Sgt. Jeremy Apodaca, a spokesman for the Española Police Department, said, “It was a great day for the community, and Española Police Department is very happy with the relationship we have with the FBI and that we are able to work so closely together.”
Cinquanta said he went on to have a long career with the Denver Police Department and currently runs a private investigation agency in the city.
“I don’t know of anybody who has tracked anyone for 46 years and caught him,” he said.
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