SPANISH FORK — Utah County Sheriff Jim Tracy called it an "evil run" through his county Thursday, "a horrific set of events."
One sheriff's sergeant was killed, a deputy was hospitalized in critical condition, a vehicle was carjacked, gunfire erupted at four scenes along a 50-mile stretch over two counties, and a suspected gunman was critically injured after being shot by police.
Utah County Sheriff's Sgt. Cory Wride, who was beginning his 20th year with the department, was ambushed while attempting to help someone he thought was a stranded motorist.
Sheriff's deputy Greg Sherwood was injured and remained in critical condition Thursday night following surgery at Utah Valley Regional Medical Center in Provo.
The gunman was in critical condition after he was shot by deputies south of Nephi. His name was not released, but Tracy said he has a "significant" criminal history. A search warrant was being executed on the man's house Thursday night in an effort to understand why he went on such a destructive rampage.
"We don't have any idea what the motive is here," Sheriff Tracy said, adding that the possibility the gunman was waiting for an officer to stop just so he could shoot him was being investigated.
"It's my personal belief that that was the case. He may very well have parked along the side of the road hoping that some officer might stop behind him. We really don't have any idea what the motive is," Tracy said.
About 1 p.m., Wride approached a vehicle he found parked along the side of state Route 73 in Eagle Mountain.
"All he indicated was he was stopping behind a vehicle to do a motorist assist," Tracy said.
That was the last radio contact dispatchers had with the sergeant.
Before Wride even got out of his car, he was shot and killed — possibly with a high-powered rifle, Tracy said.
"It appears Sgt. Wride was ambushed at that time, and he was shot in the vehicle, and he did not survive his wounds," the sheriff said.
Other deputies drove by to check on him when he stopped answering his radio, and they discovered his body.
A second shooting happened about 2:50 p.m. near Main and Center streets in Santaquin, where Sherwood spotted the suspect's vehicle. A high-speed chase ensued, and the suspect fired at Sherwood just seconds later while they were driving.
"That second deputy received a head wound and is currently in surgery," Tracy said late Thursday afternoon.
He said Sherwood's prognosis was good.
A 50-mile crime scene
The gunman apparently travelled more than 40 miles between the site where he shot Wride in Eagle Mountain and his run-in with Sherwood in Santaquin. From there, he continued south.
"We're trying to get our arms around all of this," Tracy said. "We've got four scenes spread across 50 miles. We've got multiple agencies and two counties involved."
Shots were then fired in Nephi, where the gunman crashed his vehicle and then tried to carjack another. He made several attempts before shots were again fired and he took someone else's car, Tracy said. No one was injured in that shooting.
The gunman again took to southbound I-15 and another high-speed chase ensued. That ended south of Nephi about 3:20 p.m., where the man lost control of the vehicle, crossed the median and northbound lanes and crashed into a fence.
The man fired his gun for a fourth time at that point. Tracy said Juab County sheriff's deputies on the scene returned fire, striking the man, and then took him into custody.
More than 100 officers from various agencies were involved in Thursday's incident. Investigators were looking Thursday for witnesses or people involved in the multiple carjacking attempts. People with information can call 801-887-3800.
Heidi Kelso, a spokeswoman with Central Valley Medical Center in Nephi, confirmed that a 21-year-old shooting victim was brought to the emergency room about 3:45 p.m. He was then transported to Utah Valley Regional Medical Center. The Nephi hospital was locked down for about an hour, which is standard protocol for any serious injury brought to the hospital, she said.
Drivers were delayed and diverted Thursday as officers pursued the gunman and attempted to pick up the pieces left in his wake. Travel in both directions on I-15 near Nephi was halted for about five hours, with southbound lanes reopening just before 8 p.m. Northbound traffic continued to be diverted onto state Route 78 through Levan and down state Route 28 to the freeway in Nephi.
Traffic east of the scene on state Route 73 in Eagle Mountain was shut down, with all westbound traffic toward Cedar Fort being diverted at Ranches Parkway.
Wride was remembered Thursday as a deputy who always tried to help his community.
"He was a good man. He was a very helpful person. And that's what he was doing, helping people, when he was shot," Tracy said.
The sheriff cast down his eyes as he recalled informing Wride's wife and five children of his death Thursday. Wride recently spent three years as Tracy's administrative sergeant.
"That's (a visit) you don't want to do, and hope you don't have to do," Tracy said.
Wride grew up in American Fork and was raising his family on land his grandfather used to farm west of town. His cousin, Blaine Wride, recalls talking with him Wednesday about caring for the cows.
"It's going to be tough on his family," Blaine Wride said. "Somebody like Cory, he's put in a lot of time. He's influenced a lot of lives."
Cory Wride loved being with his family, hunting and working with youth in his local congregation of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. As with any other day of his life, Blaine Wride is sure his cousin, always "a good neighbor," was just trying to help when he stopped on the side of the road Thursday.
Questions began flying across social media after the shootings, later turning into condolences for Cory Wride and his family.
Community members in the Eagle Mountain area set up a Facebook event asking students at area schools to wear their best dress on Friday as a sign of respect for Cory Wride.
Agencies across the state, including the Saratoga Springs Police Department, posted tributes to Wride online.
"All officers and support staff of the Saratoga Springs Police Department wish to express their deepest condolences and sympathy to the family, friends and co-workers of Sgt. Cory Wride, who was killed in the line of duty today," stated a Facebook post.
Cory Wride's death is tragically similar to the last officer killed in Utah, Draper Police Sgt. Derek Johnson in September. Johnson was about to assist a vehicle he thought had broken down. He was shot without warning before he even got out of his police vehicle.
Contributing: Morgan Jacobsen, Sam Penrod
Email: [email protected], Twitter: DNewsCrimeTeam