Utah officer killed in I-15 semitruck crash was father of 2, had new granddaughter

The driver accused of killing the officer was taken into custody Sunday.

(GoFundMe) Santaquin police Sgt. Bill Hooser was killed when authorities say a man intentionally crashed a semitruck into his patrol vehicle early Sunday, May 5, 2024.

The Utah police officer who was killed Sunday when authorities say a man intentionally crashed a semitruck into his patrol vehicle was identified Monday as Sgt. Bill Hooser, 50.

Hooser was raised in Utah and had worked with the Santaquin Police department since 2017. He is survived by his wife of 29 years, two daughters and a new granddaughter, according to a GoFundMe campaign set up to raise money for his relatives.

“Our entire department is hurt. And the family of the officer is hurt,” said Lt. Mike Wall, with Santaquin police, at a Sunday news conference. “Because of a senseless act by one individual, we have family members who will miss their father at their nearing wedding. But I can assure you, we as a police department will stand up and we will be there, and we are one family.”

(Chris Samuels | The Salt Lake Tribune) Family members of Santaquin police Sgt. Bill Hooser are led into a funeral home in Santaquin, Monday, May 6, 2024. Hooser was killed when authorities say a man intentionally crashed a semitruck into his patrol vehicle on Sunday, May 5, 2024.

The sergeant had been responding with a Utah Highway Patrol trooper at about 6:30 a.m. to a report of someone standing on the back of a semitrailer as it traveled north on Interstate 15 near Santaquin, police said.

When Hooser and the trooper tried to stop the semitruck, the driver continued on, traveling farther north a short distance before turning around and heading the wrong way back toward Hooser and the trooper, police said.

The semitruck struck both Hooser’s vehicle and the trooper’s vehicle. The trooper was not injured, but Hooser died at the scene. It is unclear if anyone was ever on the back of the semitrailer as originally reported.

After impact, the semitruck driver ran away, proceeding to steal several vehicles in Sanpete County before he was taken into custody Sunday in Vernal after a short pursuit, which ended when he crashed the vehicle he was driving, police said. He was hospitalized after his arrest, police said.

The Salt Lake Tribune generally does not identify defendants unless they have been formally charged with a crime. Public records indicate the 42-year-old has a lengthy criminal history beginning as early as 2001. In 2009, he was convicted of assault in case where prosecutors said he ran over an Oregon police officer.

According to Santaquin police, Hooser joined the agency after serving with the San Juan County Sheriff’s Office in New Mexico for about two years.

Santaquin police Chief Rodney Hurst at a Monday news conference said Hooser knew “right and wrong,” describing him him as “really squared away.”

“He even had the flattop haircut to go along with it. He was a top notch officer,” Hurst said, “and it’s going to be hard to replace him.”

Hooser’s younger brother, Michael Hooser, said at the same news conference that he saw law enforcement officers and others line the roads Monday morning, amid unseasonably cold temperatures that brought rain and snow, as he drove down from Wyoming after his brother’s death.

“The entire way, I could see the love and support of Utah,” he said.

(Chris Samuels | The Salt Lake Tribune) Members of the public watch an ambulance pass by carrying the body of Santaquin police Sgt. Bill Hooser, who was killed Sunday in Santaquin, Monday, May 6, 2024.

Michael Hooser acknowledged his brother’s law enforcement career started later than most — but because of that, he was sure about the job and loved it. His brother started as a volunteer before taking the job in New Mexico and later Santaquin, he said.

“We take comfort in the outpouring of support we have received from agencies and offices all over the state,” Michael Hooser said. “Although nothing could ever make up the loss we feel, we take solace in knowing Bill died a hero.”

Named as Santaquin’s city employee of the month in October 2022, Hooser loved “making a difference in people’s lives,” and at the time, the corporal “really enjoyed his assignment as an investigator,” according to a bio posted when he received the award.

His responsibilities included overseeing the Santaquin Police Department’s high school internship program. The page noted he liked to golf and camp in his free time and described his wife as his “sweetheart.”

He was promoted to sergeant in February, police said.

As of Monday afternoon, the GoFundMe page had raised more than $60,000 to help his widow and their family.

(City of Santaquin) Santaquin police Officer Bill Hooser, second from right, poses as he is recognized as the city's employee of the month in October 2022. Hooser was killed when authorities say a man driving a semitruck intentionally crashed into his patrol vehicle early Sunday, May 5, 2024.