Hunters stop a modern-day Bonnie and Clyde

When the pair struck out cross country, they ended up in this canyon, going to ground near this windmill.

Things get “Western” when pheasant hunters stop a modern-day Bonnie and Clyde in eastern Oregon.

Out of the sagebrush steps a woman. Screaming. Shrieking. It is December, and she’s dressed in blue jeans and a short sleeve blue and white top. Then her boyfriend stands up. He too is clad in summer clothes — baggy blue jeans and a short-sleeve shirt with Los Angeles emblazoned in bold letters.

Their arms are raised, palms faced toward their captors. They are ready to surrender.

Then they see the dogs and hunter orange, and the shotguns, and realize they’ve stepped right in the middle of a pheasant hunt. They look at each other, join hands and walk away, over the crest of the hill.

They are looking for another car to steal — and another gun.

Built from a kit in the early 1900s, this two-story house still stands on the Carlson ranch.

Bad Actor

Most days, Madras is a sleepy little burg in central Oregon. Farms and small ranches bound it on three sides, while a river canyon defines another margin. There’s a regional airport nearby, and an Indian Reservation called Warm Springs, where three tribes make their homes: the Warm Springs, the Wasco and Northern Paiute. A major highway runs through the center of town, with northbound lanes and southbound lanes separated by a city block, the traffic controlled with stoplights.

August 2017, the justice system finishes with another miscreant. Daniel Faustino Arce has paid his debt to society, and he takes the bus ride home to Warm Springs, a place he sometimes calls the Rez. It’s where he grew up and where his family came from. It’s not long before Arce is back on meth with a girlfriend and a .40-caliber Springfield XD tucked in his waistband.

By December, Arce’s life is spiraling out of control again. The SWAT team catches up with him in Madras after reports he’s shot at three different people. The cordon tightens around him and the girl, but somehow, they slip away and the Feds can only guess where they’ve gone.

Phil Carlson (center) with a pair of pheasants taken on an early spring hunt.

It’s Hard, Man

It’s not easy to get to Hardman. It doesn’t show up on most maps of the state of Oregon. The ghosts outnumber the living in this collection of weathered homes and abandoned vehicles. It’s a proud place that grew upon the land, important in its time, and still important to the people who make their living on the surrounding farms and ranches.

One such resident is Phil Carlson, who, 30 years ago, when the bottom fell out of the price of beef and the price of dry land wheat, looked to sportsmen — bird hunters — to create his new business model. He built a lodge, constructed a clubhouse, bought bird dogs and began to offer hunts for chukar and pheasant on the land that had been in his family for generations. Ask Carlson what it takes to run a family bird-hunting business and he’ll tell you, “It’s hard, man.”

Today, Carlson is in his early 60s, a man of the land, tall, tough and strong, the kind of man who sticks in eastern Oregon. He does business on a handshake and expects other men to treat him the same way.

December 17, 2017, Carlson guided four hunters from eastern Washington on their annual bird hunt at TREO Ranches. “It was getting toward the end of the hunt, we were almost back to where the truck was parked,” Carlson recalled.

The dogs, a German wirehair and a black Lab, cut back and forth. The wirehair tightened up and circled around the top of a rockslide and locked up hard, his nose pointing down into a clump of sage brush. His tongue hanging out, the Lab came up from below the birds, its tail flagging. Then two chukars took to the air, their wings a-blur.

Bang, bang, bang, bang, bang. Their guns swung. Boots shifted in shale and barrels scribed arcs. There. Feathers from that one, the birds going back to ground, the dogs moving in to make a retrieve or flush a wounded chukar.

This was the moment where the timeless trajectory of a chukar hunt intersected with the dangerous tangent of an ex-convict on meth, armed and dangerous.

“All of a sudden this woman stands up out of the sagebrush! She’s screaming like she had been shot and she has her hands up, walking toward us,” Carlson said. One of the hunters turned on Carlson. “What the … Phil! What are you doing? You bring us out here on a chukar hunt and now we shoot someone?!”

“It was like walking in on a movie,” Carlson said later. “A movie where you don’t know the plot, but you have to figure it out right now.”
Then Daniel Faustino Arce stood up and raised his hands.

Car Chase

Two days prior, December 15, 28-year-old Daniel Faustino Arce and Desireea Delane Devin were surrounded by a SWAT team in downtown Madras. It was not the first time Arce had faced the guns of Warm Springs and Madras police in downtown Madras. This time the pair slipped through the perimeter and seemed to vanish.

They were headed east to Heppner, Devin’s hometown, and beyond that, to the Umatilla Indian Reservation, a little more than an hour’s drive east of Heppner, with accomplice Vera Rose Smith supplying the vehicle.

Several miles outside of Heppner, Smith left Arce and Devin to their own devices, and the couple stole a Jeep Cherokee from a farm along the highway. That’s when luck started to run against them.

Headed down the road in their newly acquired Jeep, Arce and Devin attracted the attention of neighbor Roger Britt, who recognized the vehicle but not its occupants.

It was a Sunday afternoon and Britt, knowing his neighbors were not at home, noticed their garage door was open and the Jeep was missing. Britt was at the garage when two vehicles came down the road, the Jeep and another car right behind it. Then the garage door closed. Someone in the Jeep had activated the garage door opener.

Britt ran for his pickup and gave chase. Eventually the other car pulled over, but Britt kept following the Jeep. Devin was at the wheel and Arce was in the passenger seat. Britt was right behind them and saw the gun come out the window and heard the shot.

If Britt had a good look at the pistol, he would have seen the Springfield XD-40 with a magazine extension. Arce was not poorly armed, although he may have been low on ammunition. He’d shot at three other people in the past few days. In any case, it seems he only fired one shot at his pursuer.

Britt backed off and kept a safer distance to keep Arce from trying a second shot.

The chase continued down to the one-silo town of Ruggs and turned onto the Heppner-Condon Highway. Britt turned back and stopped at the home of Terry Harper, whose house the chase had passed at the moment Arce fired at Britt.

Harper, a County Sheriff’s deputy, had heard the shot. He called 911. Law enforcement agents from various corners of Ruggs began to move toward Heppner and Rhea Creek.

Smoke Signals

The Jeep was low on fuel, so Arce broke into a shed and stole several cans of gas. To stay off the pavement, the couple headed down a dirt road and slid the Jeep to the bottom of an embankment. The Jeep was stuck — and stuck hard.

In a life of decisions made wrong, Arce and Devin put their heads together and made another choice. They would set the Jeep on fire. Gasoline ignites when the vapor ignites. But that’s not how they do it on TV. Arce soaked the Jeep in fuel, then walked away, dribbling a trail of gas into the wet grass. Then he ignited the fuel left in the gas can.

Whoosh! The gas can burned up, sending a thin smoke signal to the sky.

Liesl, a Pudelpointer, retrieves a chukar on a hunt at TREO Ranches.


One wonders if Arce and Devin heard the hunters coming. Hunting chukar and pheasant in the canyon, the group moved closer, the dogs working ahead, stopping to point birds. There would have been the crash of guns, the shouts to the dogs, and to one another. The group came into view, shooting at a pair of chukar.

“It was getting toward the end of the day,” Carlson said. “A pair of chukars get up and the hunters swing with them. They go bang, bang, bang.”
That’s when Devin had enough. The pressure was too much. They were shooting at her now. She stood up, screaming, her hands above her head. The dogs and the guns; they had her. And then Arce stood up.

And the hunters were mad. Mad at Phil, who they thought should not let people camp out in his sagebrush. “Did we shoot her?” someone asked.
“Pretty quick, that couple starts walking to the left real slow,” Carlson said later. “They start holding hands. They start up over the hill.” This was when Pablo showed up.

Pablo Cisneros, a longtime employee of TREO Ranches, had seen the Jeep crossing the property. Thinking they were trespassers, he’d been trying to catch up with them.

Pablo drove up in the flatbed and jumped out. “You see the white Jeep Cherokee go up and down the hill? Up and down the hill. It don’t leave. That Jeep Cherokee, it still in the canyon. It don’t leave,” Cisneros said.

Carlson pointed. “You see those two people go up the hill?”

Pablo nodded. “Those two people were in the Jeep Cherokee. And I’m going up there and kick their ass.”

This was the moment Carlson spotted the black smoke up the canyon. To an eastern Oregon farmer, a potential grass fire was more important than a footrace with two trespassers.

Pablo headed up the hill toward Arce and Devin. Carlson turned toward the smoke. “Guys, we have to go put the fire out!”

On the back of Carlson’s flatbed rides a lemonade cask. With the lemonade and sweatshirts, they headed up the hill. The smoke was coal black and there was a little circle where the gas can had been. And then they saw the white Jeep. This was when the hunters made the connection.
“These guys are car thieves. We have to go get them.”

These were ordinary hunters. Not cops. Not detectives. Not a SWAT team. Guys from out of state, on their annual bird hunt in eastern Oregon. Like anyone with a hunting license in this corner of the state, they didn’t just have shotguns with them. They had brought along a few other guns, just in case they needed them.

And back came Pablo. As fast as he had run after Arce and Devin, he came back, still gasping for breath. “I catch them. They run. I run faster. They run faster. I caught them. But I got close. He’s a gang member.”

As soon as Pablo was close enough to see the neck tattoos, to see the obvious gang affiliation, he stopped.

One of the hunters took an optic-equipped AR-15 out of its case. Another belted on a handgun and strapped on a knife. Two opted for their bird hunting shotguns. One stayed with Carlson.

The hunter with the AR-15 jumped into his own pickup and his companions climbed into the bed.

Devin (left) and Arce keep their hands up as they walk uphill, driving
like skulking pheasants in front of the hunters. Photo: Phil Carlson


Arce and Devin were lying down now in the tall grass. Hiding like chukars.

But Pablo had seen them go to ground, had marked where they went down. A hunter jumped off the truck. In 50 yards, another one jumped off, then another. Fifty yards farther on the driver parked and set up with the AR-15.

With Pablo parked on the hillside and the driver laying down in the grass with the rifle, his eye above the optic, the other three advanced and drove the pair into the open.

Their quarry waddled out into the open like a couple of wing-shot pheasants, up the hill ahead of the hunters. Carlson called 911 from a landline back at the barn. “We have two car thieves on the ground with guns pointed at their heads,” Carlson said.

What the hunters from out of state didn’t find was a gun. And when the Feds arrived, barely 30 minutes later — a light-speed response in eastern Oregon — they wanted to know where the pistol was.

This remained a mystery until three months later, when on March 23, an off-duty policeman, hunting with Carlson, spotted the Springfield where the pair had first lifted their hands and walked away from the hunters.

In a lifetime of bad choices, Daniel Faustino Arce at least made one good decision and threw his gun down.

Arce, Devin and Smith.


The pair was later charged with 14 counts, three of which were merged and three later dismissed.

Daniel Faustino Arce was found guilty by a Morrow County jury and sentenced to more than 12 years in prison. Desireea Devin and Vera Rose Smith opted for plea deals instead of going to trial. Devin was sentenced to more than four years with the hope she would get treatment for drug addiction. Smith, who was involved in the beginning of the crime spree, pleaded to first-degree burglary and first-degree theft and was sentenced to 19 months.

Our heroes in hunter orange booked a year in advance for another exciting day at TREO Ranches.

Arce’s pistol was retrieved by an off-duty officer hunting birds on his
own time — three months later. Photo: Phil Carlson

Considering the remote location, law enforcement was quick to arrive on the scene within 30 minutes.


On a good day, the nearest law enforcement is just a phone call and 30 minutes of winding highway away.

Acts of violence are random and are visited upon us when we least expect them — even in the most out-of-the-way places.

The best answer to a bad guy with a gun is a good guy with a gun. Seven good guys are better yet.

Want the advantage? Bring a long gun with an optic sight.

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