Two high-speed chases during which a male suspect allegedly tried repeatedly to run over police officers put him in the Utah County jail and a female passenger in the hospital with a gunshot wound.
Sheriff’s Sgt. Spencer Cannon said the woman apparently was grazed on the head by one of several shots fired by police during the prolonged pursuit late Sunday morning and early afternoon.
The woman, identified only as a relative of the suspect, was conscious and communicative when taken to a hospital for treatment of what Cannon termed a “non-life threatening injury.” She was in good condition Monday.
The uninjured suspect, a 40-year-old Springville man, was booked into jail on suspicion of five third-degree felony counts of failure to stop at command of a police officer and numerous misdemeanors, ranging from multiple reckless driving counts to speeding and driving without current insurance and vehicle registration.
He remained behind bars Monday without bail, pending court proceedings.
Cannon said the drama began at 10:18 a.m. Sunday when an Mapleton officer tried to pull over a 2016 Ford Focus for an expired registration tag. Instead, the suspect sped away; the officer decided it was too dangerous to pursue.
About an hour later a sheriff’s deputy, unaware of the aborted chase in Mapleton, saw the same car parked near Payson Canyon. “That is an area known for illegal activity, so the deputy began to turn, intending to talk to the occupants of the car,” Cannon said.
Though the deputy had not yet activated his lights or siren, the suspect again bolted “at high speed, driving recklessly.” The deputy then activated his cruiser‘s light bar and gave chase.
Reaching speeds of 120 mph, the suspect raced through Payson, Spanish Fork, Springville and Mapleton, drawing more deputies and local police into the chase. Repeated efforts were made to spike the fleeing vehicle’s tires.
“The suspect driver swerved several times in an obvious effort to hit those who were deploying spikes,” Cannon said.
Near 1400 North and West Frontage Road, in Springville, the suspect suddenly made a U-turn, driving directly at a Springville officer. That officer fired at least once, a gunshot that was initially thought to be the one that wounded the female passenger.
The suspect then drove against traffic onto an Interstate 15 on ramp, made another U-turn into the southbound lanes and temporarily broken contact with pursuing law enforcement, Cannon said.
Using information on the vehicle’s expired registration obtained earlier, deputies learned the identity of the driver. Once they connected him to a working cell phone, police tracked the car to 940 North and 600 East in Springville.
When the vehicle once more sped away, officers had been able to put a fixed-wing aircraft over the scene to keep the suspect in sight. When the suspect stopped at 1:08 p.m. Sunday behind a Spanish Fork business at 950 N. 700 East, he was confronted by a deputy and a Spanish Fork officer.
“The suspect then drove directly toward the Spanish Fork officer, who responded by withdrawing his sidearm and firing at the suspect. The suspect then stopped and surrendered,” Cannon said.
Court records show the suspect has a long criminal history that includes numerous felonies, ranging from aggravated assault to theft and criminal trespass.
At the time of his most recent arrest, he was out on bond pending a Tuesday 4th District Court hearing on domestic violence-related charges.
Cannon said the Utah County Officer Involved Shooting Protocol Task Force is investigating Sunday’s incident.
The Spanish Fork and Springville officers reportedly were on administrative leave pending results of the shooting reviews.