SPANISH FORK, Utah (AP) — A fugitive suspected of killing one Utah deputy and wounding another died Friday from injuries suffered a day earlier, when he was shot by law officers during a gunfight.
Jose Angel Garcia-Juaregui’s death means authorities might never know his motive for shooting the deputies and hijacking a car on Thursday, leading police on a crime spree that covered 50 miles in Utah and Juab counties, Utah County Sheriff Jim Tracy said.
However, Tracy acknowledged it might have had to do with the fact that an arrest warrant was issued for Garcia-Juaregui on Wednesday for alleged violations of his parole conditions. Garcia-Juaregui served 4 1/2 years in prison for attempted homicide. He was paroled from Utah state prison in December 2012.
The crime spree began when Utah County Sheriff’s Sgt. Cory Wride, 44, pulled over on a rural two-lane highway about 35 miles south of Salt Lake City to check on a truck with its emergency lights on.
Wride spoke with Garcia-Juaregui and a teenage girl who was with him in the truck before returning to his patrol car. The deputy was sitting behind the wheel doing background checks on the two when Garcia-Juaregui slipped open the truck’s back window and opened fire with a handgun, hitting the deputy twice, Tracy said.
As Garcia-Juaregui took off from the scene, an urgent alert went out instructing officers to head to strategic spots around the county in hopes of spotting the suspect’s truck.
About an hour later, a Utah County deputy spotted it near Santaquin, more than 30 miles south of the first shooting. Garcia-Juaregui fired at that deputy from the same back window, hitting him in the head, authorities said. That deputy is in critical condition but he is expected to recover.
The gunman took off again, driving south on Interstate 15, but he crashed his truck and hijacked another vehicle at gunpoint, Tracy said.
The man shot at other motorists who unwittingly stopped to help him, but he didn’t hit any of them, the sheriff said.
The suspect eventually was captured near Nephi after a gunfight with Juab County deputies. Tracy said he didn’t know how many times Garcia-Juaregui was shot.
“This individual clearly was not going to be taken without a fight,” the sheriff said. “He shot at anything and everything that moved.”
The teenage girl was with Garcia-Juaregui the entire chase but was not injured, Tracy said. Officials also have arrested her, but they don’t yet know if she was a willing participant. Her name was withheld because she is a minor.
Garcia-Juaregui was in Utah prison from April 2008 until he was paroled in December 2012, said Utah Department of Corrections spokesman Stephen Gehrke. He was convicted of felony attempted murder after stabbing a friend multiple times with a screwdriver in 2007 following a night of drinking and partying, said Utah Board of Pardons spokesman Jim Hatch. Garcia-Juaregui, who had no other criminal history, said it was self-defense.
The warrant was issued this week when Garcia-Juaregui’s parole office couldn’t find him, Hatch said.
Tracy said investigators have searched a house in the Salt Lake City suburb of Draper where Garcia Juaregui was living, but he declined to say what they found. The sheriff said authorities don’t know where Garcia-Juaregui is from originally.
The harrowing chase and accompanying bloodshed have left usually quiet communities in the area shaken.
Krista Black, manager of the Maverick convenience store and gas station on the rural highway where Wride was killed, said her husband slowed to check on a disabled vehicle he believes was the suspect’s about 10 minutes before the shooting.
Her husband moved on without getting out of his car to help because no one appeared to be in the other vehicle.
“It makes you nervous about who is out there,” Black told The Associated Press. “My husband always stops to help people.”
The sheriff said Wride was a 19-year veteran of the Utah County Sheriff’s Office. He leaves behind a wife, five children and eight grand-children.
Wride’s uncle was a longtime police officer in the community, inspiring him to take the same career path, his brother-in-law Johnny Revill said. Revill said the family is struggling to understand why Wilde was shot.
“As it has been reported, an evil swept through this community yesterday afternoon,” Revill said, “leaving behind a path of unimaginable sorrow for our family.”
Revill said the family is taking comfort in knowing they will be joined again in the afterlife. Wilde was active in his local congregation of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints in the small town of Benjamin. Mormons believe families are joined eternally.
House Speaker Becky Lockhart, a Provo Republican, said she knew Wride, who was a resident in her district for 10 years.
She noted that in addition to being an officer, Wride was involved in the community and served as a local Republican Party delegate.
“That is a public servant of the highest level,” Lockhart said Friday afternoon. “It’s a real tragedy.”
Funeral arrangements have not been made yet.
The circumstances of Wride’s death are similar to those in the last police killing in Utah. In September, Draper Police Sgt. Derek Johnson arrived to help with a vehicle he thought had broken down. He was shot before he left his police vehicle.
Charges have not yet been filed against Garcia-Juaregui, but acting Utah County Attorney Tim Taylor said he plans to file one charge of aggravated murder, with the possibility of the death penalty, and one or more counts of attempted aggravated murder.
Garcia-Juaregui also likely faces a charge of aggravated robbery for the carjacking and another charge for evading police, Taylor said.
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