BLOOMFIELD — One man was arrested and another escaped after the chief of New Mexico State Police chased a suspected drunken driver onto a rural road where the man ran and hid while the passenger got behind the wheel and disappeared, authorities said Thursday.

The suspected driver of the fleeing vehicle, Keith Benally, 35, was arrested after a three-hour manhunt in the area of County Road 7792, south of Bloomfield, state police Lt. Eric Garcia said.

The pursuit began at about 1:30 p.m. Wednesday after state police Chief Faron Segotta, who is stationed in Santa Fe, witnessed Benally swerving between lanes outside of Bloomfield.

While Segotta and other backup officers attempted to pursue Benally as he ran from the stopped car, the vehicle's passenger, identified as 33-year-old Leonard Clah, stepped behind the driver's seat of the vehicle and fled the scene.

Utilizing Farmington police K9 units and the Sheriff's Office helicopter, police located Benally in the area, Garcia said. Clah, and the vehicle involved, never was found.

According to state police, family members of Benally reported that the man was highly intoxicated after an extended drinking binge, but the man

wouldn't allow relatives to stop him from driving.

"They had tried to take the keys away from him," Garcia said. "We're thankful that no one was injured in the incident (and) that Mr.


Benally was not involved in a motor vehicle accident."

Benally is charged with DWI and obstructing police.

Clah, who is not located, will face tribal charges, Garcia said.

James Monteleone: