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Geoff Liesik, Deseret News
Dallas Rowley, of Vernal, makes his initial appearance in 8th District Court, Tuesday, March 13, 2012. Rowley is charged with attempted aggravated murder and failure to respond to an officer's command to stop. He is accused of firing 19 shots at a Uintah County sheriff's deputy during a March 8, 2012, traffic stop.

VERNAL — A man accused of firing 19 shots at a Uintah County sheriff's deputy made his first court appearance Tuesday.

Dallas Rowley of Vernal is charged in 8th District Court with attempted aggravated murder, a first-degree felony, and failure to respond to an officer's command to stop, a third-degree felony.

Rowley, 66, said very little during his brief court appearance, answering most of Judge Clark McClellan's questions with "Yes, sir." and "No, sir." 

The charges against Rowley stem from a March 8 encounter with deputy Mike Lourenco. The deputy spotted Rowley's vehicle parked on the side of Red Wash Road near the junction with state Route 45 and stopped to see if he needed assistance. 

Lourenco said he detected an odor of alcohol on Rowley's breath and asked him to get out of his vehicle. Rowley responded by driving away, leading to a brief pursuit that ended when the Vernal man stopped his Chevy Suburban at an angle that allowed him to fire 19 shots from an AR-15 rifle at the approaching deputy, according to charging documents.

Lourenco said he saw Rowley pointing a rifle at him and laid across the front seat of his patrol truck while putting the vehicle in reverse and backing away.

Investigators later determined that at least 10 of the 19 shots hit the deputy's truck. Three bullets punched through the windshield, and would have hit Lourenco "in the chest, neck or head if he had remained in an upright, seated position," the charges state.

Rowley drove off into The Book Cliffs — a rugged 200 million-acre tract of land cut by deep canyons and crisscrossed by oil-field roads. He surrendered to Uintah County Sheriff Jeff Merrell near the White River on Saturday, ending a two-day manhunt that involved federal, state and local agencies.

After questioning Rowley during Tuesday's hearing, McClellan determined that he qualified for a public defender and assigned attorney Clint Hendricks to represent him.

Hendricks declined to comment on the case after the hearing.

Rowley remains in jail on a $500,000 bail. Uintah County Attorney G. Mark Thomas said he will fight any effort to reduce the bail amount.

"(Rowley's) conduct could suggest that he would, in fact, be dangerous," Thomas told the Deseret News. "I would argue that that would be a solid reason for keeping the bail as it is or increasing it."

A preliminary hearing is scheduled for March 28.

E-mail: gliesik@desnews.com Twitter: GeoffLiesik