A man remains in critical condition after he led officers on a pursuit through Washington County on Wednesday, opening fire at several vehicles as he sped toward the south entrance of Zion National Park.
Lt. David Crouse with the Washington County Sheriff’s Office on Thursday said the shooting “could’ve had catastrophic consequences and people were extremely lucky.” At least 10 vehicles were shot at as the situation unfolded, but only “minimal injuries” were reported from citizens, he said. No officers were hurt.
The reported “active shooter” situation unfolded in Rockville, forcing residents about 5 miles southwest of Zion National Park to shelter in place and prompting an hourslong closure of state Route 9 in the area. Officers on Thursday were still working to collect statements from witnesses, police said.
The shooting stemmed from a report of a 55-year-old man in Hurricane accused of brandishing a weapon at a father and his daughter on State Street at about 3:40 p.m. Wednesday, according to a news release from the Washington County Critical Incident Task Force. The man then left the area.
When a Hurricane officer later spotted the man’s vehicle and attempted to stop it, the man drove off, heading east on state Route 9 toward Zion, the release states.
With officers in pursuit, the man raced through the cities of Hurricane, La Verkin and Virgin, sometimes at speeds in excess of 100 mph, according to the release. At times, he also drove into oncoming traffic, police said, which prompted officers from the Springdale-Zion Canyon Police Department to deploy tire-deflation devices.
At least one of the man’s tires was punctured as a result, and one officer opened fired at him, according to the release, but the man kept driving. Law enforcement continued to pursue the man into Rockville, where he stopped his vehicle, stepped out and “exchanged gunfire” with two Hurricane officers before running into a neighborhood, the release states.
Federal, state and local law enforcement — as well as SWAT officers, a helicopter and drones — began searching for the man. After a single gunshot was reportedly heard, authorities found the man in a backyard, suffering from what appeared to be a self-inflicted gunshot wound, the release states.
He was transported to a hospital, where he remained in critical condition as of Thursday, Crouse said. Investigators have not been able to determine a motive for the shooting.
Per protocol, one officer from Springdale-Zion Canyon Police and two officers from the Hurricane Police Department have been placed on paid administrative leave pending a review of their use of force, the release states.
The Washington County Critical Incident Task Force continues to investigate. Any residents who may have relevant video footage or recordings of what unfolded may contact Hurricane police at 435-635-7911.