Photographer Rhonda Napoleon of New Mexico had pulled over at White Sands National Park on Monday to shoot some stock imagery when she suddenly found herself capturing the intense real-life drama of a high-speed car chase.
The 55-year-old Napoleon left Las Cruces, New Mexico, on Monday morning after spending Easter weekend with her mother. She was returning to her home and studio in Cloudcroft, about 90 miles away.
“I was nearing the border patrol by White Sands National Park, near Holloman Air Force Base, when I decided to turn onto the other side of the highway and take more stock photos for my collection and let my dogs get out,” Napoleon tells PetaPixel.
Napoleon combines portraits and landscapes to create fantasy art, so she’s always searching for that perfect stock footage to composite into her creations.
“I took a few photos, saw the dogs were done, and placed them on the passenger side,” explains Napoleon. “I was walking around to the driver’s side and had barely opened my door when here comes this silver car speeding by just inches away from my door. I jumped back and went to the back of my car. The car was followed by a black truck.”
Napoleon instinctively took off the lens cap from her Canon 18-135mm lens and turned on her Canon 70D DSLR.
“Once my adrenaline kicked in, I was just taking photos,” the photographer says. “The car turned around and was coming back towards ME!”
“There were cars coming, and I thought, ‘Oh crap! These vehicles are going to go right into oncoming traffic,’ but they jumped the median and came back around,” the photographer says. “I felt like I was a pedestrian in a video game, and I just wanted to get out of there as quickly as I could.”
“I started to get into my car when the car and truck turned around AGAIN, and there was burned rubber smoke, so I bent down by my car till the vehicles passed.”
Later on, she was informed that the silver sedan was a Dollar Cab that was stolen from a nearby hotel. The owners of the cab tracked it with GPS and started giving chase in the black truck.
“The truck cut off the cab car, and the guy inside got out of the stolen car and started to run away,” Napoleon recalls. “The truck followed the guy onto the shoulder just in front of me and went into the field, so I placed my car in reverse and backed up a safe distance.
“I waited till it looked like it was OK to drive past and started going, but then the Dollar Cab car must have been in neutral when the guy got out of it as it started rolling backward, so I rushed to get into the other lane and slowly drove past the man and woman [who were chasing in the truck] now holding guns [on the alleged thief].
“I could hear the man [with the gun] yelling at the guy to stay down or get down. I got back on the highway going to Alamogordo, heading to the border patrol station, and saw a border patrol car and several cop cars were on their way to the scene.
“I was shaking so much that when I stopped at the border patrol at 11:25 am, I called my mom and told her what happened. I checked my phone for the time. I figured if I was able to tell her, then I had to accept that it really happened!”
“Alamogordo Police said they got a call about a stolen cab car from a hotel in town,” reported KOB4. “They sent out a ‘be on the lookout’ alert for a black Dodge chasing a stolen Dollar Cab headed west on Highway 70. The pursuit lasted around 15 miles and ended right where Rhonda was.
“The Otero County Sheriff’s Office has launched an investigation, and the owner of the cab company later identified herself to Rhonda as the woman in her photos.”
Here’s a local news report about the incident by KOB4:
Sometimes news photography can be prepared for, but other times it’s all about finding yourself in just the right place at just the right time.
Image credits: All photos courtesy of Rhonda Napoleon and used with permission.