PROVO — A woman grazed in the head by a bullet from officers as the driver of the car she was in attempted to flee Sunday was not involved in the incident, according to police.
The woman was shot when police fired at the car driven by a relative, 40-year-old Michael Charles Rankin, when he allegedly tried to ram officers as he fled from police Sunday.
Utah County Sheriff's Sgt. Spencer Cannon said Monday the bullet pierced the woman's scalp and then exited again without penetrating her skull.
"Other than having a nasty injury on the side of her head, she was doing quite well," Cannon said.
Investigators interviewed the woman in the hospital Sunday, Cannon said, determining that she had been trying to get Rankin to stop his car and surrender to police.
Rankin is accused of leading police on a chase through multiple cities, including Payson, Spanish Fork and Springville. Police reported that Rankin reached speeds of 100 mph, including in 25-mph zones, according to affidavits filed in 4th District Court.
The incident began on Main Street in Mapleton where an officer noticed that the plates on Rankin's car were expired. When the officer did a U-turn and turned on his lights, signalling for the driver to stop, Rankin continued on, an affidavit states. When he sounded his siren, the officer reported that Rankin sped off.
A Utah County sheriff's deputy next spotted Rankin's car pulled to the side of the road in Payson Canyon. As the deputy pulled up to see if the driver needed help, Rankin pulled back out onto the road, "briefly stopped and raised his middle finger at me" and drove off, according to an affidavit.
As the deputy followed, lights and sirens activated, he reported that Rankin passed other cars, crossed into oncoming traffic and "showed no due regard for innocent civilians and drivers in the area."
Other officers who joined the pursuit as they spotted and then lost Rankin multiple times reported that he swerved toward officers as if to hit them, ran red lights, got on the freeway going in the wrong direction, passed other vehicles on the shoulder, and topped speeds of 100 mph, according to multiple affidavits. At times, police reported Rankin wore a bandana covering his face.
When Rankin allegedly tried to hit an officer laying out spike strips near 1400 North and West Frontage Road in Springville, a Springville police officer shot at Rankin's car, striking the woman in the passenger seat.
A little over an hour later, Ranking again attempted to hit a police officer with his car, according to police. A Spanish Fork police officer also fired shots at Rankin's car and, moments later, Rankin stopped, got out of his car and surrendered to officers, police said.
Despite her wound and spending more than an hour in the car after the bullet hit her, Cannon said the woman was lucid and spoke with law enforcement as soon as Rankin was taken into custody.
Investigators are still unsure why Rankin fled, Cannon said, considering that other than some evidence he allegedly had drugs in the vehicle, was only being stopped for expired plates.
"That certainly is a whole lot less than what he faces now," Cannon said.Comment on this story
Rankin was booked into the Utah County Jail for investigation of five counts of failure to respond to officer's signal to stop, four counts of reckless driving, expired registration, no proof of insurance, speeding, driving under the influence and drug possession.
The Utah County Attorney's Office and Critical Incident Task Force will investigate the officers' use of deadly force. The Spanish Fork officer is on paid administrative leave while the incident is investigated. Springville police did not return calls inquiring about the status of their officer.
Additionally, each of the departments involved in the chase — Springville, Spanish Fork, Mapleton and the Utah County Sheriff's Office — are also conducting their own independent reviews.