SPANISH FORK, Utah (AP) - A fugitive suspected of killing one Utah deputy and wounding another died Friday afternoon from injuries suffered a day earlier when he was shot by law enforcement officers during a gunfight that ended a 2 ½-hour crime spree.
The death of Jose Angel Garcia-Juaregui, 27, means authorities might never know the motive for his actions Thursday when he fired at deputies and bystanders, rammed into cars and carjacked a vehicle with a mother and toddler inside before four officers gunned him down 50 miles south of where it started.
“This individual clearly was not going to be taken without a fight,” Utah County Jim Tracy said. “He shot at anything and everything that moved.”
Garcia-Juaregui never regained consciousness before dying, denying detectives a chance to ask him questions. Tracy can only speculate that Garcia-Juaregui’s decision to go on a shooting spree might have had to do with the fact that an arrest warrant was issued for him 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.
“We’re pretty sure he became increasingly nervous that he was going to be found out,” said Tracy, in reference to his contact with a deputy he shot. “At some point, he must have made a determination that he was going to be caught, and he knew the consequences would be a return to prison.”
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 and into Juab County. There, he smashed into a car and semi-trailer, shooting at both as well. He also fired at bystanders and tried to carjack two vehicles, Juab County Sheriff Alden Orme said. One attempt failed, but the other worked when he forced a mother and her 4-year-old child out of their car at gunpoint.
After he sped through the main street in Nephi, four Juab County Sheriff’s deputies caught up to him south of the city. A gunbattle ensued, with Garcia-Juaregui getting hit and arrested. None of these deputies were injured.
“I cannot express enough how dangerous a situation that was,” Orme said. “We’re just thankful citizens and additional officers weren’t injured.”
Authorities said they don’t know how many times Garcia-Juaregui was shot. His body is being sent for an autopsy.
The teenage girl was with Garcia-Juaregui the entire chase, but she was not injured, Tracy said. Officials also have her in custody, but they don’t yet know if she was a willing participant. Her name was withheld because she is a minor.