ALBUQUERQUE – Racing veterans Al Unser Sr. and Bobby Unser are accused of resisting arrest after they allegedly ignored orders to leave an area where Bernalillo County sheriff's deputies had cornered a carjacking suspect.
The sheriff's department said the suspect led police on a high-speed chase while shooting at them Wednesday morning. The man eventually crashed into a car on the city's west side and later fatally shot himself.
During the standoff, authorities had cordoned off a road named after the Unser family.
Deputies said Al Unser Sr. started to go through the roadblock to get to his property when he was told to stop. Bobby Unser, who arrived later, was also confronted by deputies and refused to leave.
"They simply told them numerous times to leave the area and they simply refused to do so," said Erin Kinnard Thompson, a spokeswoman for the sheriff's department. "We're not talking about a situation where we're trying to catch a shoplifter. This was a serious and dangerous situation."
The Unsers, who have seven Indianapolis 500 wins between them, were arrested for resisting arrest and obstructing officers. They were booked into the Metropolitan Detention Center and later released.
Bobby Unser said he's concerned that people will think he and his brother are guilty because they were arrested.
"The fact is we didn't do anything wrong, zero wrong," he told Albuquerque television station KOB-TV.
Al Unser Sr. said he tried to drive onto his property near the roadblock and the deputies began to yell at him. He said one deputy continued to yell after he turned around to get back in his car. He claims he was then pulled out of his vehicle and thrown to the ground before being handcuffed.
Thompson said Unser was taken down after he attempted to pull away from a deputy when being handcuffed.
Bobby Unser said he was also yelled at. He didn't know his brother had been arrested until he ran into him at a sheriff's substation.
The Unsers contend authorities used unnecessary force and that their accounts of the incident aren't true.
"Naturally I'm going to get a hold of Sheriff [Darren] White and tell him honestly what happen, not what these crazy idiots that work for him are writing down," Bobby Unser said.
White defended his deputies.
"It's not uncommon for officers to be riddled with insults from people we arrest," he said in a statement. "It's deplorable when it comes from someone who is considered a respected member of our community. Let's not forget these officers were being shot at."