TAYLORSVILLE — Two people were injured Thursday following a high-speed chase through several cities that ended in a shootout with police.
One man critically wounded by police was wanted in connection with an armed robbery in West Valley City at a Kmart last week. He was the second of two suspects from that robbery to lead police on a high-speed chase that ended with injuries this week.
Salt Lake County Sheriff Jim Winder called Thursday's incident a "significant and dynamic chase."
The incident began just after midnight in the area of 900 South and 1100 West. West Valley police investigators were looking for a suspect or suspects in an aggravated robbery from Friday. In that case, two men fired shots into the ceiling at Kmart, 1770 W. 4100 South, after stealing items. The getaway vehicle in that case was described as a silver or gray Toyota, possibly a Camry or Corolla.
Thursday morning, officers spotted a suspect in a gray Toyota Camry. A 31-year-old man and a 19-year-old woman were in the vehicle, according to police.
The ensuing chase lasted several minutes and went west into West Valley City, then along 4000 West into Kearns and eventually east on 4700 South into Taylorsville. Winder said at the height of the chase, between 60 and 70 officers from multiple jurisdictions were involved.
Near 4700 South and 3200 West, officers deployed tire spikes, taking out at least two of the fleeing vehicle's wheels. It was about that time, either before or after their tires were spiked, that the suspects began firing at pursuing officers, Unified Police Lt. Justin Hoyal said.
The chase went into a residential area and came to a stop in a cul-de-sac near 1780 West and Bowling Avenue (4620 South). The fleeing vehicle was driving on at least two rims, Hoyal said.
At that point, gunfire erupted between the suspects and a Unified police officer and a West Valley police officer. Multiple rounds were fired, Winder said. The 31-year-old man was critically injured. No officers were injured, although a nearby apartment complex window was struck and the rear driver's side door of a patrol car was hit, Hoyal said.
"We hit the ground and just waited for it to be over," said Jackie Brooks, who was playing cards with her neighbors when the shootout started outside her window.
The 19-year-old woman was also hit, but she was able to run off. She ran through a hole in a chain-link fence that divided the cul-de-sac from Salt Lake Community College where police with K-9s quickly took her into custody. She was taken to a local hospital to be treated for her injury. She was listed in serious condition.
West Valley Police Chief Lee Russo said investigators "strongly suspect" that the man shot Thursday was involved in the Kmart incident.
Ramon Franco, 31, and Celene Hernandez, 19, both of West Valley City, were later identified as the two who were shot. Investigators were still determining Thursday whether one or both of the two fired at police. One handgun was recovered at the scene. Detectives were preparing to secure a search warrant to go through the vehicle.
"We're just fortunate there wasn't any other injuries. These suspects were hell-bent for leather as they continued on their way," Winder said.
Franco was charged in Vernal in 2008 with drug-related offenses. According to court records, he has had a warrant out for his arrest since 2008 for failing to appear in court.
Thursday's incident marked the second police chase in three days with alleged suspects from the Kmart robbery.
On Tuesday, West Valley police got into a chase that ended when the driver hit two other vehicles near 3500 South and 4000 West. A family of two adults and a child were injured.
A male and female in the fleeing vehicle were injured and taken to a local hospital. The male was believed to be one of the suspects in the Kmart shooting. The Utah County Major Crimes Task Force also assisted with that arrest.