Shortly after 9 a.m. on May 29, 1998, 45-year-old police officer Dale Claxton drove into Cortez, Colorado. A teletype bulletin had alerted him that the day before, a big white water truck had been stolen near Ignacio, some 65 miles to the east. Claxton realized now that the same truck was driving slowly down County Road 27, just ahead of him. The thieves had blacked out the Overwright Trucking logo on the door, but for some reason had not bothered to remove or change the license plates.
Claxton, a former tire salesman who had joined the force three years before after a religious conversion, radioed headquarters: "That Mack Truck that was reported stolen this morning? I'm behind it." Still, he did not turn on his siren or lights.