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Utah deputy shooting suspect's friend blames concussions

Published February 8, 2014 7:18 pm

She says shooting suspect regularly banged his head against his steering wheel.
This is an archived article that was published on sltrib.com in 2014, and information in the article may be outdated. It is provided only for personal research purposes and may not be reprinted.

Friends of Jose Angel Garcia-Jauregui say he may have been affected by self-induced concussions and that he was possibly heading to Mexico with his 17-year-old female co-passenger when he engaged in a deadly shooting spree a week ago.

Garcia-Jauregui was fatally wounded by Juab County deputies on Interstate 15 north of Nephi after a shooting spree left Utah County sheriff's Sgt. Cory Wride dead and Deputy Greg Sherwood critically wounded Jan. 30.

Kristin Allred says the 27-year-old had been hard on himself since a co-worker was crushed by a tractor at Dale T. Smith & Sons Meat Packing Co. in October. So much so, she says, that Garcia-Jauregui regularly banged his own head against the steering wheel of his Cadillac. Allred says he had recently complained of blurred vision and migraines, and that medical staff at Utah Valley Regional Medical Center told her that he had head trauma unrelated to the shootout.

Garcia-Jauregui served 4 1/2 years in prison for a 2008 attempted murder after running over a man with his car and stabbing him 21 times with a Phillips-head screwdriver, stemming from a perceived slight in a rap battle. After the stabbing, he struck another man with a tire iron or crowbar and fractured his face. A later felony charge for assault by a prisoner was dismissed.

However, Janice Erickson believes Garcia-Jauregui was a changed man after prison. She says the two "had a long talk" when he got out that persuaded her to allow him to live with her, as he had before the attempted murder.

"It opened his eyes and made him see that he didn't want to live his life that way," says Erickson, who feels a sort of maternal connection to Garcia-Jauregui. "He had been an angry young man before he went [to prison]. … After talking to him, I believed him."

Erickson calls him Angel with an Anglican "G." Garcia-Jauregui was kind to her children and grandchildren, and she says she remembers that a TV report of an officer shooting prompted him to say, "What a fool! You don't shoot cops!"

Garcia-Jauregui moved to Draper to be closer to work last summer, Erickson says. He bought a Cadillac that he called "his baby." Allred says that when he'd get angry, he'd channel his aggression through legal outlets: When it was warm out, she says, he'd go fishing.

That may be the case, said Utah County Sheriff's Office spokesman Sgt. Spencer Cannon. Plenty of evildoers have a kinder side, he said, but people are ultimately judged by their actions. Cannon said Garcia-Jauregui's criminal history suggests his alleged actions Jan. 30 were not out of character.

A concussion "doesn't explain the attempted homicide that he did 4 1/2 years in prison for," Cannon said. "Unless he got a bump on the head before that, too, I don't know. ... He might have personality characteristics that make him [seem like] a pretty nice guy, but he obviously had a part of his personality that led him to this."

Allred says that earlier in January, weeks before Garcia-Jauregui failed to check in with a parole officer and triggered a warrant for his arrest, the man left a note with his brother (who did not immediately return a request for comment) telling him that he would be heading to Mexico because, as Allred remembers it, "things had gotten out of control here and he didn't know what he was doing." Allred says Garcia-Jauregui had two biological children in Mexico, a boy and a girl.

Allred doesn't know if Garcia-Jauregui and the 17-year-old girl who was with him were physically intimate, but she says Garcia-Jauregui gave her a promise ring last November. The two would often hold hands, she said. Still, Allred believes there is little chance the teen was taken against her will.

"She's always been a very headstrong child," Allred said. "I don't think anybody could convince her to do something she wouldn't want to do."

Acting Utah County Attorney Tim Taylor told The Salt Lake Tribune on Friday that the female juvenile appeared to have been the driver and that Garcia-Jauregui was the likely shooter. The teen appeared at a closed juvenile court hearing Friday in Provo, where a judge gave prosecutors until Feb. 28 to file charges. She is being kept at a Provo juvenile-detention facility.

Attempts to reach the teen's attorney, Neil Skousen, were unsuccessful Saturday.

Visiting Garcia-Jauregui at the hospital while he was brain dead, Erickson said he didn't look dead. He was warm, and tears were coming out of his eyes.

She says she feels terrible about Wride and Sherwood. But, at the time, all she could think about was "the fact that my boy was laying there and [I was] losing him. I'm very, very sorry for what happened to those poor families. I know how they feel."

Tribune reporters Bob Mims, Brooke Adams, Jessica Miller and Nate Carlisle contributed to this report.

mpiper@sltrib.com

Twitter: @matthew_piper