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Fleeing driver injured, 3 dogs killed, when car hits Salt Lake home

Published February 2, 2012 5:04 pm

Crime • Man in stolen car had been eluding police before hitting house and pets.
This is an archived article that was published on sltrib.com in 2012, and information in the article may be outdated. It is provided only for personal research purposes and may not be reprinted.

A man driving a stolen car was seriously injured, and three dogs were killed, when the man crashed into a Salt Lake City home Thursday morning.

Police said they were looking for the man but were not actively chasing him when the crash occurred.

The car ran through a chain-link fence before hitting a tree, the three pets, a car and a home near 1450 W. California Ave. (1330 South).

Police said the home was in foreclosure, and no one was residing there.

But at the home just to the west, Sandra De Paz was outside feeding her three Chihuahuas when the speeding car came flying through her back yard, missing her by about 15 feet.

De Paz said car took out a tree the three dogs were standing behind. When De Paz realized her dogs had been killed, she said she started shaking and crying and ran inside her home to call her husband.

Meanwhile, smoke and flames started coming from the stolen car.

Andres Taberas, who lives east of the home that was hit, said he thought the crash was an earthquake.

"I heard the boom and then everything started shaking," Taberas said. "It sounded like a big explosion and ... I went crazy."

He said picture frames on his walls started shaking and debris, including "flying rocks," hit his windows.

The driver of the car was extricated and taken to Intermountain Medical Center in critical condition, police said.

Police said the man initially was spotted at about 9:45 a.m. near 200 East and 300 South as he was about to get into a stolen vehicle. Two officers from the state Motor Vehicle Enforcement Division approached the man, who is believed to be in his 30s.

The man got into the Chevrolet Impala and rammed into the two officers' parked cars before fleeing, said Charlie Roberts, spokesman for MVE.

At about 10 a.m., the man was spotted near Interstate 215 and Redwood Road by another MVE officer. The man tried to ram the officer's car. The officer swerved out of the way and turned on his lights and sirens but did not chase the man when the man ran a red light.

The man then turned east on California Avenue, where two Utah Highway Patrol cars were headed west, responding to the MVE officer's call.

The man — apparently reacting to seeing the UHP troopers — made a sharp left turn onto the residential property where the dogs were killed.

Later Thursday, police were still trying to determine the identity of the man, who was in serious condition and remained unconscious. The man, being guarded by an officer at the hospital, sustained head injuries and a broken vertebrae in his neck and back.

cimaron@sltrib.com