Community activist Michael Clara arrested after firing a gun at a car that hit him

(photo courtesy Salt Lake County Jail) Jon Michael Clara

Community activist and former Salt Lake City School Board of Education member Michael Clara was arrested Saturday night and booked into the Salt Lake County jail for allegedly firing a gun several times at a car that hit his vehicle.

Clara, 55, was traveling north on 900 West from 200 South when the car he was driving was struck “multiple times” by another vehicle, according to a probable cause affidavit. He then allegedly exited his car, “drew a firearm from his holster" and fired his gun in the direction of the vehicle that had struck him.

The other car, which was several feet away and facing the opposite direction, drove off.

A stray bullet hit a third vehicle in the area, entering through the back window and exiting out the windshield and “almost hitting the driver and his young child who were inside it," according to the affidavit.

The Salt Lake City Police Department did not respond to an immediate request for more details on the incident.

Clara directed requests for comment to his attorney, Clayton Simms, who told The Salt Lake Tribune on Monday that his client was acting in self-defense against the driver that hit him with his car, which had a snowplow attached to it and had rammed him several times.

The driver of the car that hit Clara is believed to have stolen the vehicle, Simms said.

“He felt like he had no other choice," he said of Clara’s actions. "At the time, he felt that he was in danger and his passenger was in danger and he reacted to that and defended himself and defended his passenger by firing his gun.”

Clara has a concealed carry permit and is a “safe firearms owner,” Simms said.

“He wasn’t out being a cowboy, being reckless,” he said. "He completely and totally reacted appropriately to the situation and I would be shocked if he was charged with an offense.”

During his time on the Salt Lake City Board of Education, Clara represented the district’s west side and was one of the body’s most vocal and divisive members. He was also a transit planner with the Utah Transit Authority for nearly 20 years.

Clara currently works as a community organizer with the Crossroads Urban Center, a nonprofit organization that works with low-income Utahns, and is involved in other community affairs in Salt Lake City.