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.
Garcia-Juaregui was in Utah prison from April 2008 until he was paroled in December 2012, Utah Department of Corrections spokesman Stephen Gehrke said. 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, Utah Board of Pardons spokesman Jim Hatch said. 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 grandchildren.
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.
People lined the street Friday afternoon holding American flags as Wride’s body was driven to a funeral home in in Spanish Fork.
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.
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