- Associated Press - Saturday, February 8, 2014

ST. GEORGE, Utah (AP) - A Utah man has been sentenced to three years to life in state prison for opening fire on police during a July 2012 traffic stop.

Jamon Val Cranney of Washington City took a plea deal Friday before trial in 5th District Court and pleaded an equivalent of no contest to attempted aggravated murder, the Spectrum of St. George reports. (https://bit.ly/1d61r7Q )

Cranney, 37, could qualify for release as early as next year, but prosecutor Brian Filter said he expects Cranney will serve many years in prison.

Cranney had been sought on a warrant in an attempted-robbery case in Iron County when he engaged in the shootout with Washington City police Officer Chris Ray and a sheriff’s reserve deputy, Alan Dressler.

Neither officer was hit by gunfire, but Cranney was critically wounded.

Cranney on Friday entered a so-called Alford plea, meaning he didn’t plead guilty but acknowledged that the prosecution could prove its case.

Defense attorney Earl Xais told Judge James Shumate that Cranney never intended to kill Ray and Dressler, but that he wanted them to kill him.

“Although he engaged in highly reckless and dangerous behavior, it was his intent to die at the hands of the police officers but not to cause the death of either one of the officers,” Xais said.

Ray, now a police officer in LaVerkin, told the Spectrum the shootout changed his life and continues to haunt him.

Ray was honored as Officer of the Year for small police agencies last year by the Utah Chiefs of Police Association, but he said he receives medical treatment for nightmares, depression and anxiety.

Dressler didn’t attend the hearing. He is still employed with the Washington County sheriff’s office.

The judge called the case “wrenching” and told Cranney the shooting could have turned out much worse.

“The fact that you are alive, and the officers are alive, is clearly just by the grace of God,” Shumate said.

___

Information from: The Spectrum, https://www.thespectrum.com

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