Car theft suspect spends 12+ hours atop radio tower in attempt to avoid police

An alleged car thief scrambled up a 320-foot radio tower while fleeing police officers Friday morning. 

Julian Fernandez, 36, eventually came down after more than 12 hours and surrendered, the Thornton Police Department stated in a press release. 

TPD’s officers rolled into the 4200 block of East 100th Avenue at 7 a.m. to investigate a reported car theft. While there, the suspect returned to the scene in the stolen car. 

The chase was on. 

Fernandez ran from the scene on foot and disappeared. More officers were called in to search. 

Thornton Police Department

It was then that Fernandez was seen jumping a security fence in the 9800 block of Riverdale Road, about a half mile east of the original scene. Once inside that perimeter, Fernandez began climbing the radio tower. 

“Police ordered him to stop,” TPD stated in its press release, “but he continued climbing.”

Nearby roads were closed, the department’s crisis negotiators were called to the scene, and four fire departments arrived to send personnel up the tower after Fernandez. 


Thornton Police Department

“I can tell you that he was at the top of the tower for well over 12 hours,” TPD Officer Joseph Walker told CBS News Colorado, “so I wouldn’t doubt if he was worn out by the elements he experienced all day. The crews made attempts to reach Julian throughout the afternoon. Each time fire rescue crews ascended the tower, as they got close to him, he became agitated and it became a safety issue. In addition, weather was threatening at a few points and the crews were grounded for safety. In the end, as the climbers were moving up to try again, Julian began to climb down to meet the rescuers, about ¾ of the way up the tower. They were able to get him into a harness and safely take him down at that point.”

Fernandez was taken to a hospital for evaluation. He is not shown among the population in the Adams County jail as of mid-afternoon Saturday, suggesting he is still in the hospital and not yet booked on potential charges. 

According to online court records, Fernandez had one active misdemeanor warrant for traffic-related charges. Previously, he was sentenced to two years in the Colorado Department of Corrections in 2019. That sentence was the culmination of several arrests by Westminster, Broomfield, Thornton and Adams County law agencies on traffic, assault, felony menacing and burglary charges. 


Thornton Police Department

“We are SO happy this ended in him safely on the ground,” TPD’s Walker added, “that was our #1 concern from the beginning.” 

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