From reviewing the evidence that is available to us, such a great heroic act on their part to go toe to toe without regard of their own safety to protect the citizens and get in a gun battle is no small feat, so I couldn't be prouder of my deputies. —Juab County Sheriff Alden Orme
NEPHI — Juab County Sheriff Alden Orme is feeling the strain of losing nearly half of his workforce.
Four deputies in the rural sheriff's office were placed on routine administrative leave following a shootout with a man suspected of killing Utah County Sheriff's Sgt. Cory Wride and shooting deputy Greg Sherwood during a crime spree last Thursday.
Orme credits those four deputies with putting their lives at risk to bring a chase to an end. While it is fortunate that his deputies don’t often have to deal with violent situations, Orme said the training and bravery of his deputies kicked in when they stopped Jose Angel Garcia-Juaregui, 27, preventing him from hurting anyone else.
Garcia-Juaregui died the next day from injuries he recieved in the shootout.
The flags continue to fly at half staff outside the Juab County Sheriff's Office to honor Wride. Orme said the sergeant's death hits close to home.
"Our hearts break for the deputies in Utah County," Orme said. "We wish their families the best."
Last Thursday started as a regular day for the Juab County deputies, but it changed dramatically when they received word that Garcia-Juaregui was heading their way.
Investigators say Garcia-Juaregui shot and killed Wride in Eagle Mountain after Wride stopped to assist his stopped vehicle. Sherwood spotted him near Santaquin and was shot during a subsequent chase. Garcia-Juaregui continued south to Nephi, where he crashed his vehicle and then fired "numerous shots" at residents and passing vehicles, said Nephi Police Chief Michael Morgan. A woman and her 3- to 4-year-old boy were forced off the road at gunpoint, and her car was stolen.
As the chase continued south of Nephi, deputies spiked the tires on Garcia-Juaregui's vehicle, sending the car through the median, off the road and crashing into a fence. He again attempted to carjack another vehicle and more shots were fired. Some vehicles were hit, including a semi-truck. Four Juab County sheriff's deputies were involved in the final gun battle.
"From the minute he came into our county, it was one violent episode after another," the sheriff recalled.
The four deputies, who returned fire after they were fired upon, confronted the suspect without taking cover, he said.
"From reviewing the evidence that is available to us, such a great heroic act on their part to go toe to toe without regard of their own safety to protect the citizens and get in a gun battle is no small feat," Orme said, "so I couldn't be prouder of my deputies."
But in a small department, having four deputies on temporary leave has a definite impact.
"I have about nine patrol guys, so roughly about half of my patrol division is on leave right now while the investigation wraps up," Orme said.
He's had offers from other nearby sheriffs to help him out, but for now he's relying on overtime shifts with his own deputies.
"It does create some challenges, but we feel honored to be able to pay our respects to the deputies in Utah County and be part of it, to be a safe end to a very violent situation," he said.
Several retired deputies will help patrol on Wednesday, so that many of the Juab deputies can attend Wride's funeral in Orem.