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Accident with stolen police car hospitalizes 4, including suspect

Published: Sunday, Oct. 21 2012 3:39 p.m. MDT

SALT LAKE CITY — A severe accident involving a stolen police car Sunday left four people hospitalized, including the suspect, and sparked three police investigations.

Gary Keller, executive officer for the South Salt Lake Police Department, said the man accused of stealing the car was taken from the scene in serious condition. His name will not be released until he can be booked into jail.

The suspect is from Arizona and is about 20 years old, Keller said.

The theft occurred at the Flying J at 2100 S. 900 West about 3 a.m. Sunday. The officer exited the cafe and unlocked the vehicle using a key fob, Keller said.

The suspect, who police say must have been hiding next to the police car, hopped in and immediately sped off thanks to a key that was already in the ignition, Keller said.

The officer called in the theft at 3:08 a.m., starting an immediate pursuit by nearby police crews. The suspect was outpacing the pursuing officers when he crashed the vehicle minutes later at 3:12 a.m., Keller said. 

Two cars were hit in the accident, Keller said. The police vehicle struck a red Mitsubishi from behind as it sped east on 3300 South, sending it flying across the intersection 500 East and into a tree, Keller said. The Mitsubishi was at a complete stop at the light when it was hit.

A young Nevada couple in their 20's was critically injured. The man driving the Mitsubishi had to be extricated from the vehicle by emergency crews and is in very critical condition, Keller said. The woman in the vehicle was also taken from the scene in critical condition but is now stable.

A 52-year-old Salt Lake woman was also hit by the stolen vehicle as she was traveling north through the intersection in a small Volkswagon, Keller said. She was taken from the scene in serious condition.

South Salt Lake resident John Dale said he was watching TV and dozing when the accident occurred near his house.

"It sounded like a a cannon," Dale said. "For that big of a bang, it all had to have happened simultaneously."

Dale rushed out of his house minutes later to find myriad officers already on scene.

According to Keller, three agencies will be investigating the incident: Salt Lake City Police will investigate the accident, Utah Highway Patrol will investigate the suspect's possible impairment and South Salt Lake City Police will conduct a policy investigation.

Keller said it doesn't appear the suspect was armed, but police firearms including the officer's service weapon were inside the vehicle when the theft occured.

The early morning accident kept the intersection blocked until noon, but the light Sunday traffic was only slightly interrupted, Keller said. 

E-mail: mromero@deseretnews.com, Twitter: @McKenzieRomero

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