VERNAL — A Vernal man has admitted that he tried to kill a sheriff's deputy who stopped to check on his welfare after the deputy found the man's SUV parked off a remote Uintah County road last year.

Dallas A. Rowley was charged in 8th District Court with attempted aggravated murder, a first-degree felony, and failure to stop at the command of an officer, a third-degree felony.

Rowley, 67, pleaded guilty Tuesday to a reduced charge of attempted murder, a second-degree felony. He also pleaded guilty to the failure to stop charge.

About 8:45 p.m. on March 8, 2012, Uintah County sheriff's deputy Mike Lourenco was on patrol 20 miles south of Vernal when he spotted an SUV parked off the road. Lourenco approached the SUV and found Rowley inside. The deputy said he smelled the odor of alcohol and saw a gun on the floorboard below the front passenger seat.

Rowley was ordered out of the vehicle, but drove off instead with the deputy in pursuit. The brief chase ended when Lourenco crested a rise, found the SUV parked across the road and saw Rowley in the driver's seat pointing an AR-15 rifle at him.

Investigators say Rowley fired 19 shots at the deputy's patrol truck, hitting it 10 times. At least three bullets punched through the windshield and struck the driver's seat.

Lourenco suffered shrapnel injuries, but avoided being shot by throwing his truck in reverse, backing up and laying down into the passenger seat, Uintah County Attorney G. Mark Thomas said.

Comment on this story

After the shooting Rowley fled into The Book Cliffs, sparking a two-day manhunt that ended when he surrendered. He was booked into the Uintah County Jail, where he has been held since his arrest.

Rowley will be sentenced Sept. 24. He faces up to 15 years in prison for the attempted murder charge and up to five years in prison for the failure to stop charge.


Twitter: GeoffLiesik