Kearns • Alex Caro was at dinner for his daughter’s birthday Tuesday when a neighbor called to say his front yard had been transformed into a crime scene.
The 39-year-old returned to find his block in Kearns crisscrossed with yellow tape and swarming with police. Officers told Caro he wouldn’t be able to stay there Tuesday night as the investigation continued, so the family headed to his sister’s home a mile away.
Earlier that evening, about 7:30 p.m., a gang-related shooting erupted outside a residence across the street from Caro’s house at the corner of 5240 West and 5400 South. As the suspects fled in a blue pickup truck, they smashed into a white car traveling west on 5400 South, Unified Police Department officials said.
The pickup rolled onto its roof in Caro’s driveway, as the heavily damaged car came to rest against his garage door. UPD reported 55-year-old Lloyd Everett Pace and 50-year-old Tami Lynn Woodard, both of Kearns, died at the scene inside the white car. Meanwhile, police scrambled to corral the suspects, three of whom escaped the overturned truck and fled on foot.
“Unfortunately, some people died, that’s what really bothers me,” Caro said Wednesday morning, several hours after returning home. “Some innocent people had to die over some dumb stuff.”
UPD Lt. Brian Lohrke said shots were fired from the truck into Caro’s neighbor’s house, where gang members were suspected to reside. No one inside the house was injured, but one of the suspects inside the truck sustained a minor gunshot wound to the upper leg. The car crash occurred shortly afterward.
It was the second night in a row that shots rang out at the home. Neighbors said they heard gunfire Monday night, and police received reports of a blue truck fleeing the scene, however, no one was injured or arrested in that episode. Lohrke said police believe the shootings are linked to another Kearns shooting Sunday, when a 17-year-old was hit in the legs while walking along 6200 South.
Authorities were unsure whether the one wounded suspect Tuesday night was hit by return gunfire from the house or was accidentally shot inside the car by another suspect, Lohrke said.
Witnesses told police that they saw three suspects, one wearing a red hooded sweatshirt, running from the scene. Officers, aided by police dogs, located and arrested two of them hiding in a neighbor’s backyard.
The third was quickly found farther west on 5400 South, Lohrke said, though he had ditched the red hoodie, so police were initially unsure if an armed suspect remained on the loose late Tuesday night.
In all, Lohkre said that four males — ages 24, 19, 19 and 17 — were in custody and behind bars. The adults are in the Salt Lake County jail. The 17-year-old is in juvenile detention. Police believe all four suspects are gang members.
All were booked on suspicion of two counts each of first-degree felony murder, and multiple counts of discharging firearms toward a person. The three adult suspects are 24-year-old Jose Luis Munoz-Lugo, Argenis Daniel Ramirez-Saedt, 19, and Rosalio Alvarez, also 19. They were being held without bail.
Late Tuesday night, a police loudspeaker ordered residents of the home that was fired at by the blue truck to come outside. Police spotlights lit up the exterior, as officers armed with assault rifles stood nearby. Roughly a dozen people, including several children, slowly came out with their hands up.
Lohrke said police later served a search warrant on the residence and recovered several weapons. An investigation into the residents of the home was ongoing Wednesday afternoon, he said.
Pace and Woodard were engaged to be married, according to their Facebook pages. Pace worked for a plumbing company, and both had posted about recovering from drug addiction. A GoFundMe page was set up Wednesday to support the families of the couple.
Caro, who has lived in the neighborhood about a decade, said he wasn’t overly worried about the shootings and crash. On Monday, he heard the shots, saw a car speed off and promptly went back to sleep.
But the father of three said his wife was more concerned, especially after the car and truck ended up in their front yard. She mentioned possibly building a wall or fence, he said.
Other neighbors also expressed concern Tuesday night.
John and Ruth Ann White, who live across the street from Caro, watched Tuesday night as police combed the area. They have lived in the neighborhood for 38 years and said it is usually quiet.
But sometimes, John White said, it gets a little “rough and tough.” He pointed to a home nearby where a drive-by shooting occurred many years ago. The couple also recalled a large gang fight that broke out about a decade ago.
The rash of recent shootings is worrisome, Ruth Ann White said.
“You don’t really feel safe anymore,” she said.
The Kearns Community Council said a community meeting to discuss gang violence would be held at 6:30 p.m. Thursday at Kearns High School.