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Meagan Dakota Grunwald
Witness disputes portrayal of an unwitting accomplice
Shootings » Man who saw gunplay says girl didn’t appear “fearful.”
First Published Apr 28 2014 01:01 am • Last Updated May 12 2014 01:05 pm

Meagan Grunwald’s attorney has said the teenage girl feared for her life and was forced by her boyfriend to drive her truck during a high-speed manhunt while the boyfriend shot at police — killing one officer and wounding another.

But "fearful" is not how the 17-year-old girl appeared to Jim Clarken that day.

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Clarken said in a recent interview with The Salt Lake Tribune that he was driving up Interstate 15 on the afternoon of Jan. 30 when the police chase came to an end right before him and his family.

Clarken, who was returning to his Salt Lake City home from Las Vegas that day, said he was several feet away when he saw police gun down 27-year-old Jose Angel Garcia-Jauregui and arrest both him and Grunwald.

"She was so distraught that he had been shot," said Clarken, recalling the girl’s reaction. "She was sobbing uncontrollably. ... She was just freaking out, telling police, ‘You f---ing assholes, you didn’t have to f---ing kill him!’ "

Freeway gunplay » Initially, Clarken said he had no idea what was unfolding in front of him just south of Nephi, with his wife and 10-year-old son in the car. When he saw Utah Highway Patrol lights flash behind him, he thought he was being pulled over for speeding.

Then, he saw a UHP trooper suddenly pull out of the median in front of him. Clarken said he braked suddenly to avoid hitting the trooper, and eventually came to a complete stop as he saw people running on the highway and the shooting unfold before him.

In that moment, Clarken said he wasn’t sure if the men dressed in what he thought looked like snowmobile suits were police or what exactly he had just run into.

"They don’t look like police officers," he recalled. "They look like hunters."

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In fact, Clarken — who said he has a concealed carry gun permit — had pulled out his own gun in case he needed to protect himself from whatever was going on.

"We were 10 feet from where [Grunwald] was," he said. "That’s why I got my 45 [caliber gun]. I don’t know who this crazy person is. She was coming closer and closer to the car."

But before Grunwald could get any closer to his vehicle, Clarken said police fired off rounds at Garcia-Jauregui, who was struck by a bullet in the top of his head. He died the next day at a local hospital.

As police were arresting the couple, Clarken said he heard an officer yell to him to get out of the area, so they drove away, still not knowing what just happened — or why.

"I thought that guy did something," Clarken said about the man police shot. "By the number of cops, [I thought] that guy killed a cop. Either a child or a police officer."

Witness: "I feel lucky" » But it wasn’t until the family arrived home and saw media reports that they discovered exactly what had happened. After they learned Grunwald and Garcia-Jauregui had carjacked someone and had been shooting at random at passing vehicles, Clarken said he was grateful he wasn’t in the area minutes earlier, putting his family at risk.

"Just lucky, you know?" he said of his feelings after the event. "I feel lucky we weren’t there."

For months afterward, Clarken said he didn’t really talk about the incident, and didn’t volunteer information to police or prosecutors. He was trying to protect his son, he said, because he did not want the young boy to have to rehash the graphic details to law enforcement.

But after seeing media reports where Grunwald’s attorney told reporters that Grunwald would take the stand in her own defense at trial and say she was in fear for her life, Clarken said he felt he needed to come forward.

"Her choices were reduced to either comply or give up her own life," defense attorney Dean Zabriskie told news reporters following a preliminary hearing earlier this month.

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