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Bullet strikes radio instead of police officer

Published: Thursday, Dec. 6 2012 4:54 p.m. MST

Alex J. Opmanis, 20, was arrested for investigation of attempted murder and other charges after police say he fired at officers who were serving a search warrant at his Provo home.

Utah County Sheriff's Office

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PROVO — A Utah County sheriff’s deputy came very close to getting shot and seriously injured while serving a search warrant at a home in Provo.

The officers immediately knew that they were being fired upon, but it wasn't until later when a deputy looked at his SWAT equipment that he discovered a bullet lodged in the radio's microphone.

Utah County sheriff's deputies with assistance from Provo police served a no-knock search warrant on Alex Opmanis' residence, 454 S. 900 East, about 6:30 p.m. on Nov. 19. A no-knock warrant means officers have been given permission by a judge to enter the residence without knocking.

"As the officers announced who they were and were making entry into the house, the suspect allegedly fired rounds through the door at the officers who were trying to make entry," according to Provo Police Sgt. Brandon Post.

One officer was hit by a .22-caliber slug, which lodged into a walkie-talkie he was wearing on his chest, stopping the bullet before it would have struck his bullet proof vest.

"He was wearing his protective equipment, but it is always alarming. He took a round where the microphone was," Post said. "Had the microphone or protective equipment not been there, it could have been, obviously, a lot worse than it turned out."

Two deputies returned fire. As officers heard the gunshots, they returned fire. Other officers went in the back door during the commotion and 20-year-old Opmanis was taken into custody.

Five officers sustained minor injuries from debris or small pellets during the shooting.

“The other rounds were snake shot rounds. They are like small shotgun shells you can shoot out of a .22 similar to birdshot,” Post explained.

Inside the residence, detectives said they found a small amount of marijuana, drug paraphernalia and packaging material. 

Opmanis was arrested for investigation of attempted murder, drug possession with intent to distribute and possession of a weapon by a restricted person.

Opmanis' cellphone kept getting texts as police were interviewing him, "indicative of the suspect selling illegal substances," the affidavit states.

Opmanis' residence is within 750 feet of an elementary school.

During a court hearing Tuesday to determine whether or not Opmanis' $65,000 cash-only bail could be lowered, 4th District Judge Steven Hansen said the original amount was reasonable for the charges the man faces.

There are some questions about Opmanis’ competency, so the judge ordered a mental evaluation. For now, Opmanis remains in jail until his next court hearing Jan. 15.

Opmanis has only a minor criminal record, according to Utah state court records. He pleaded no contest in 2011 to disorderly conduct, an infraction. In February, he took a plea in abeyance to misdemeanor drug paraphernalia possession and was ordered to undergo substance abuse treatment.

The incident now has three separate investigations, according to police. Provo police are investigating the shooting at police; the Utah County Attorney's Office is investigating the officers' use of deadly force; and the Utah County Sheriff's Office will continue its drug investigation.

The deputies who were shot at were on paid leave during the investigation, but have now returned to duty.

E-mail: spenrod@ksl.com

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