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Fleeing fugitive ends up in 'cuffs'

A Moorhead man who for months eluded arrest on charges ranging from raping a young girl to twice fleeing police took a wrong turn Thursday -- right past Beth Fischer's garage sale.

A Moorhead man who for months eluded arrest on charges ranging from raping a young girl to twice fleeing police took a wrong turn Thursday -- right past Beth Fischer's garage sale.

With guns drawn, Fargo police arrested one of their most-wanted fugitives about 11:30 a.m. after Fischer's 911 call helped them find Luis Ignacio Hernandez.

The call, which came after Fischer watched a man jump a fence into her back yard and run past her, put an early end to a search that began nearly an hour earlier in southwest Fargo, said Lt. Tod Dahle.

"That was really helpful," he said. "Who knows what he (Hernandez) might have done as the pressure came in on him."

Prosecutors charged Hernandez in May with raping a 12-year-old girl, a Class A felony punishable by up to 20 years in prison.

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During interviews with police, the girl said Hernandez raped her "more than I can count," according to court records.

"Send him off to jail for the rest of his life, but I don't think you'll catch him," she said.

Hernandez had been running from authorities for at least 15 months.

Here's a look at how close he came to being captured, according to court records:

E On June 27, 2002, a Clay County deputy tried to serve a warrant during a traffic stop, but Hernandez drove away. The deputy followed but stopped when the suspect's car crossed into North Dakota and traffic blocked the deputy's car.

Clay County prosecutors charged Hernandez with fleeing a peace officer.

E On Feb. 12 of this year, Fargo police tried to stop a car Hernandez was in, but the vehicle ignored the attempt and drove into Clay County, where sheriff's deputies resumed the chase. Hernandez had his female driver pull over so he could drive, and he eventually lost control and rolled the vehicle in a ditch.

The collision threw Hernandez from the car, and paramedics flew him to Fargo's MeritCare Hospital with neck injuries. Three weeks later, the suspect walked out of the hospital undetected.

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The passenger who had to be extracted from the overturned car suffered several broken ribs, bruised internal organs and a dislocated elbow.

Clay County prosecutors charged Hernandez with fleeing a peace officer resulting in substantial bodily harm, criminal vehicular operation resulting in substantial bodily harm and driving after cancellation.

E On May 25, three days after prosecutors filed the rape charge against Hernandez, the girl's mother called police to tell them he was at her home.

Hernandez saw the squad cars drive by and took off running, the woman said.

Another pursuit

Police resumed their search at 10:40 a.m. Thursday when a maintenance worker at 383 Prairie Wood Circle said he was stabbed by a man trying to get into a security door at his apartment building. The victim was cut in the arm with an unknown weapon, but the wound was not serious, Dahle said.

Police soon realized they were looking for Hernandez, and when one officer began chasing a yellow Ford Mustang believed to be carrying the suspect, a sergeant ordered him to quit the chase so others wouldn't be endangered.

The suspect eventually left the car and began running through the Lewis and Clark school neighborhood. It was with about 15 officers and at least one K-9 unit on his trail that Hernandez came just a few feet from Fischer's open garage door. The woman, alone in her garage, said the man paused for a moment and looked her in the eye.

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She watched him run to a nearby shed before calling police.

"Thank god he didn't stop," Fischer said, still tending to her sale Thursday afternoon.

A few minutes later, officers ran down Hernandez a block away at 1818 15th St. S.

Police later announced the arrest to the mother of the girl who said Hernandez raped her.

"You can't even imagine how happy I am," said the woman. "Finally he's going to pay for what he did."

Readers can reach Forum reporter Dave Forster at (701) 241-5538

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