4 courageous deputies saved lives, were justified in shooting, county attorney says

Chaotic rampage near Nephi wasn't 'going to end any other way'

Published: Friday, Feb. 14 2014 4:00 p.m. MST

Further complicating the situation, Orme said, Garcia-Juaregui was running away from the officers on a downhill section of the freeway. So when the officers fired, they could only see the upper portion of his body.

From the time of the crash until Garcia-Juaregui was taken into custody, only a minute to 90 seconds had passed.

The four unidentified deputies, armed with three AR-15 rifles and a shotgun, fired a total of seven shots. One of the rounds struck Garcia-Juaregui in the head. Eldridge revealed Friday that the bullet did not penetrate the gunman's skull, but it did cause brain swelling that ultimately killed him. The cause of death was listed as blunt force trauma from the bullet, he said.

Eldridge did not talk Friday about any toxicology results from the Utah State Medical Examiner's Office or whether Garcia-Juaregui was drunk or under the influence od rugs during the incident.

For the type of situation they were in, the county attorney believes, the deputies should be commended for firing only seven rounds.

"In my mind … these deputies exercised great restraint as they engaged this suspect. They were very careful about passing traffic. They only took shots when they had clear shots. And they took the number of shots that were necessarily. They weren't overboard. They were very professional," he said.

Even when Garcia-Juaregui was on the ground, he continued to clutch his handgun — which deputies had to pry out of his hands — and continued to reach to his waistband, Eldridge said. When deputies got to him, his handgun and an extra magazine found in his waistband were both empty. Eldridge said the suspect made two statements to deputies while he was taken into custody, but he declined to disclose those on Friday, saying that that information "may come into play in other arenas."

Based on the gunman's actions, and how he continued to try and resist arrest even after being shot in the head, Eldridge believes the deputies took the appropriate action.

"It doesn't appear from the facts that this case was going to end any other way," he said.

The 17-year-old driver lay down on the ground and did not resist arrest and was not injured in the shootout. She remained in custody Friday in a juvenile detention facility in Provo. Her identity has not been released, and investigators have not described her relationship with Garcia-Juaregui.

Prosecutors asked a judge last week for a three-week extension to hold the girl as they gather evidence and consider whether to charge her as an adult. Investigators have not yet said how active of a role they believe she played in the incident or whether she was being forced to do what Garcia-Juaregui told her.

Eldridge declined to speak about the girl Friday, but he noted that with the investigation into the shooting now complete, there could be "movement in the next few days" regarding her case.

In the third shootout, the fleeing suspects were observed firing again at officers and a passing semitrailer truck. The chase entered downtown Nephi just as parent-teacher conferences were happening at a school. The gunman fired at several passing motorists in an attempt to carjack a vehicle after his pickup truck's tires were spiked and they crashed, Eldridge said. He eventually pulled a mother who was just returning from a parent-teacher conference out of her SUV.

"The woman appeared frantic and was screaming as she desperately tried to remove her child from the rear passenger seat as the vehicle was moving forward," Eldridge wrote in his report.

He said the woman "barely" got her child out before the suspects sped away again in her SUV.

Orme praised not only his officers, but also the lone Juab County dispatcher who was working that day and juggling hundreds of 911 calls while also monitoring the chase under extremely stressful conditions.

"I guarantee you that tensions were high, but they maintained a professional demeanor," Orme said. "I just think they acted above and beyond the call of duty, because it was chaotic."

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