Man accused of shooting at police near Yuba Lake charged with drug trafficking in federal court

Police found 9 pounds of methamphetamine in James Klein’s vehicle. He was arrested after a shootout with Utah Highway Patrol troopers.

A man already charged in Utah after a shootout with police in Juab County this summer is now facing drug trafficking charges in federal court.

James Klein, 33, has been in jail since May 19. He is charged in state court with stealing a police car, attempting to steal another car at gunpoint and shooting at officers, among other offenses. These new charges out of U.S. District Court focus primarily on 9 pounds of methamphetamine found in Klein’s car, as well as a handgun found in his glovebox.

Juab County Sheriff’s Office deputies first came into contact with Klein when they stopped him on Interstate 15 near Yuba Lake for an undisclosed “moving violation,” according to charging documents unsealed Thursday in U.S. District Court.

A 43-year-old woman was in the car with Klein. She was arrested and charged with multiple offenses and pleaded guilty last month to two drug-related felonies.

The deputies — identified as T. Hurst and M. Nielson — suspected drugs were in Klein’s car. They moved Klein to the passenger seat of the patrol vehicle they shared and didn’t handcuff him. They had the woman stand in front of the patrol car, documents say. Two Utah Highway Patrol troopers arrived for backup.

As the deputies got ready to search the car, Klein apparently got into the driver’s seat of the patrol car and drove until he reached the exit for Yuba Lake and turned off.

The Juab County Sheriff’s Office did not immediately respond to The Salt Lake Tribune’s request for comment. It’s unclear if apprehending Klein in the police car (with keys apparently inside) but not restraining him is a violation of the office’s policies.

After exiting, Klein was going too fast for the turn and drove over the shoulder and got stuck on Old Yuba Dam Road. Troopers had followed him and parked between 50 and 100 feet away.

Charges alleges that Klein grabbed a police rifle from inside the car and shot at officers who chased him, hitting one police car. Troopers fired back. Their names haven’t been released. Utah Highway Patrol didn’t immediately respond to a request for comment Thursday afternoon.

Soon after, a car trying to leave the reservoir drove by. The driver saw the flashing lights from the patrol car Klein was driving and slowed down. Klein flagged them closer, charging documents state, and threatened to shoot the driver and her passenger if they didn’t give him the vehicle.

Klein allegedly pointed the gun at the couple and fired into the car’s dashboard, causing the airbags to deploy. The driver was able to get away. Court documents state Klein fired at the vehicle, and one of those bullets hit the passenger in the leg.

With the car gone, Klein turned his attention back to law enforcement. Charging documents state a “gunbattle” ensued for “several minutes.” A Utah Highway Patrol trooper hit Klein in the leg. Klein then got on the ground, where he allegedly continued firing at police from beneath the stolen police car.

After that, Klein walked down an embankment and into a drainage ditch and culvert toward the Sevier River. Officers found him about a mile into the drainage ditch, lying down and covered in mud with his shirt off.

Juab County prosecutors charged Klein with 13 offenses, including counts of attempted murder, aggravated kidnapping, aggravated robbery and theft. That case is still pending. A competency hearing is scheduled for Aug. 31.

Charges filed in federal court earlier this week allege additional drug trafficking and firearms offenses after police found pounds of methamphetamine in Klein’s vehicle. Police also found a loaded handgun in the car’s glovebox. Klein’s arraignment is set for Aug. 30.

Klein was out of jail on a pre-trial release agreement the day he is alleged to have shot at officers and stolen the patrol car, meaning he was barred from having a firearm.

In that pending case out of Minnesota, Klein is accused of stealing ammunition and then shooting at officers in a Walmart parking lot.