Tooele County Sheriff's Office
Tyler Nuckolls

GRANTSVILLE — Police have arrested a man who they say tracked his three children to their adoptive home and tried to take the kids back at gunpoint in a harrowing encounter Sunday night.

Police say Tyler Nuckolls, 27, armed himself with a pistol and hid out in the Grantsville home of his three children's adoptive parents Sunday night, according to a probable cause affidavit filed in 3rd District Court.

According to the affidavit, the adoption of the children, all under the age of 14, was a closed adoption, and Nuckolls, who has no parental rights to the children, was ordered to have no contact with the family. Police noted he had never been to the home before and it was unknown how he had found out where they lived.

Nick Shurtz, a cousin of Nuckolls, said Monday it is believed Nuckolls had learned the name of one of the adoptive parents through an innocent comment by one of his children when he still had some visitation with them in foster care. Then, Shurtz said Nuckolls went on social media to determine where the family lived.

Shurtz, who said the two cousins were like brothers when they were young, described Nuckolls now as "extremely dangerous, unpredictable and delusional."

While Nuckolls' relatives didn't know where his children had ended up after the adoption, they had heard the kids were doing well, but feared Nuckolls would one day act on his threat to get the children back.

"I think in the back of our minds, we were always kind of nervous that Tyler would get an idea in his head (that) he was going to get those kids back," Shurtz said.

According to the affidavit, the children's adoptive father noticed something strange when the family returned to their home Sunday, so he grabbed a shotgun before proceeding into the house. Once inside, he was confronted by Nuckolls who claimed he was a police officer and that the man was under arrest, according to the affidavit.

A scuffle ensued, which continued as the men made their way out of the house and to the car, according to the affidavit. The father then urged Nuckolls that they should put their guns on the ground, but when the man set down his shotgun, Nuckolls grabbed it, pointed it at the man, and demanded his car keys so that he could leave with the children, the affidavit states.

The father instead threw the keys over a fence into a neighbor's yard, according to the affidavit. The neighbor — who spotted Nuckolls scrambling over his fence, shotgun in hand, and retrieving the keys — called police, the affidavit states.

When Nuckolls returned, the children's adoptive mother fought him as he climbed into the car and put the keys in the ignition, according to the affidavit. As he drove off, Nuckolls shoved the woman out the car door and dragged her for about 24 yards before crashing into a tree, the affidavit states.

The woman was then able to get the oldest child out of the car while two witnesses retrieved the two smaller children, according to the affidavit. She then fought with Nuckolls while the children were rushed to safety, the affidavit states.

Once the children were out of the way, the woman fled and Nuckolls took off in the damaged car, according to the affidavit. Police in Tooele spotted Nuckolls, who ignored officers' lights and sirens and turned onto several different streets, allegedly trying to evade them.

Nuckolls then abandoned the car, taking off on foot, until officers chasing him managed to tackle and arrest him, according to the affidavit.

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Nuckolls was booked into Tooele County Jail for investigation of offenses including child kidnapping, aggravated burglary, aggravated assault, aggravated robbery, theft, trespassing, impersonating an officer and failure to stop and the command of law enforcement.

With Nuckolls in police custody, Shurtz said he hopes the terrorized family will be able to heal.

"I'm shocked that he was so violent and pointed guns at the adoptive parents. I can't imagine how scary that must have been for them," Shurtz said. He went on to add, "Hopefully this is the thing that can keep him away for a long time so that he can not disrupt his family's lives anymore."

Contributing: Jed Boal