LEHI Word of the death of police officer Joseph D. Adams in the line of duty spread slowly through this small Utah County town Saturday. And when the news hit, it hit hard.
"This'll be a hard time for Lehi," predicted Assistant Fire Chief Bret Hutchings, swiping gently at his tear-filled eyes. "You think little Lehi, these things just don't happen."
Flags throughout the community of 19,000 flew at half-staff Saturday as investigators continued to examine the Friday night gunfight that left Adams dead and another man critically injured. Details remain sketchy, for police are releasing little information.
From Hutchings' family-owned appliance store just two blocks from the empty police station Utah County deputy sheriffs patrolled the town Saturday to allow Lehi officers time to grieve in private he spoke fondly about the 26-year-old man killed during what began as a routine traffic stop.
"He's the kind of guy that gave everybody a fair shake," Hutchings said. "He did the police job so well. He was well-liked by everybody."
Three of Adams' friends spent the afternoon cleaning the blood from the road where the officer died.
"This is an honor to come here and do this for Joe. He was my best friend," said Doug Fannen as he and two others used bleach and scouring pads to remove blood stains from the pavement.
Adams had served on Lehi's 26-member police force for three years. He leaves behind a wife, Cydney, and an 8-month-old son.
"You feel he's got to be in a better place than here, but it's so sad for his young family," Hutchings said. "And that's where our hearts will be."
Family members at Adams' Orem home on Saturday declined to comment when contacted by the Deseret News.
Lehi Police Chief Karl Zimmerman said Adams will be missed.
"It's bad," Zimmerman said about the mood within his department. "Everybody's really hurting."
According to police, Adams stopped a suspected drunken driver at 2100 N. 1200 West just before 11 p.m. Friday. Adams reportedly ticketed the man for DUI and asked him to step out of his vehicle. In the process of being handcuffed, the man was somehow able to free one hand, grab a small handgun and begin shooting, Utah County Sheriff's Sgt. Dennis Harris said.
A wounded Adams was still able to shoot the assailant numerous times before the man got into his car and drove away with Adams' handcuffs dangling from one wrist.
Police have identified the man as Arturo Javier Scott Welch, 23, West Valley City.
Adams was shot at least twice, once on the left side of his chest a mere fraction of an inch above his protective vest, and once in the leg. He was flown by medical helicopter to LDS Hospital, where he was pronounced dead at 12:13 a.m. Saturday.
Shortly after the shooting, Salt Lake County sheriff's deputies arrested Welch at a gas station at 11400 S. State in Draper. A license plate check on the red Chevrolet Cavalier Welch drove some 15 miles from Lehi to Draper indicates the vehicle was not registered to Welch. Police would not release information about the owner of the vehicle.
Welch was also airlifted to LDS Hospital, where he remained in critical condition Saturday night with multiple gunshot wounds to the abdomen, spokesman Jess Gomez said.
A search of court records indicates Welch was cited in April with a class B misdemeanor DUI and four class C misdemeanors, including driving with an open container. He pleaded not guilty to those charges in July, and an Aug. 17 pretrial conference is scheduled in that case.
In 1996, Welch also pleaded guilty to fleeing from a peace officer and possession of alcohol by a minor, both class B misdemeanors. A third misdemeanor count of vehicle burglary was dismissed.
Friday night, a passenger exited Welch's vehicle sometime during the gunfight. The man, whom police have identified only as an "acquaintance" of Welch, dialed 911 on his cell phone and waited for police to arrive.
Harris described the man, who was questioned and released Saturday morning, as "very forthcoming. I believe he's helped out the detectives quite a bit."
Officers arrived almost immediately and began performing CPR on Adams within minutes, said Hutchings, who was among the emergency personnel called to the emotional scene.
"There was a lot of crying going on here last night, from the chief on down," Hutchings said. "None of us wanted to leave the scene. We just kind of stood there in amazement."
State Sen. John Valentine, R-Orem, said his community is feeling a deep sense of loss over the slain officer. So is the Utah County Sheriff's Search and Rescue Team, of which Valentine is a part.
"Our unit is fairly somber right now. One of our lieutenants was among the first on the scene and administered CPR to Officer Adams, so it's hitting him especially hard," Valentine said. "We had a training exercise at Bridal Veil Falls (Saturday) morning, and it was extremely difficult for everyone to get going, thinking about another peace officer being shot."
State and county counseling teams are coordinating efforts to assist officers, dispatchers and staff members in dealing with the shock.
The entire town of Lehi is dazed, convenience store clerk Karla Glodowski said. The shooting dominated conversations inside the store all day Saturday, she said.
"You have to keep hearing about it before it sinks in because it's still a small town," Glodowski said. "These kind of things don't happen here."
Adams' death comes less than a month after similar tragedy rocked another small Utah town.
Roosevelt Police Chief Cecil Gurr was shot and killed July 6 after responding to a domestic dispute in a convenience store parking lot. Lee Roy Wood, Vernal, is charged with capital murder and could face the death penalty.
"I think the citizens of Utah should really take this as a warning. We're a state that's growing, and with that increase brings good people and bad people," Harris said. "This is a wake-up call to the citizens of Utah and to the police officers of Utah."
Lehi City Councilman Johnny Barnes agreed and issued a call that Adams' death not be in vain.
"I want it to be a wake-up call for people, a motivation to get on the ball, get involved, teach our kids, not just point fingers," Barnes said. "I think we can use this to uplift and help by getting involved in service."
Valentine said anytime a police officer goes down it creates shock waves both for law-abiding citizens and the peace-keeping fraternity especially with the recent spate of fatal shootings.
"We are grieved at the loss of yet another officer in the line of duty," Valentine said. "Being a police officer is a very risky endeavor. Every time he or she goes out, they face this possibility.
"And yet they do keep going out because they are professionals. Now we've lost one of our own out of our city, and it is hard to find the words to express how extremely upsetting it is to us all."
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