Salt Lake County Jail
Rufino Joseph Cervantez, 36

WEST VALLEY CITY — A man arrested for a shooting at a Smith's grocery store that injured a 3-year-old and two other people — plus himself — says the shooting was an accident.

"The suspect told police he did not intend to fire his weapon," said West Valley police spokeswoman Roxeanne Vainuku.

Rufino Cervantez, 36, was booked Wednesday into the Salt Lake County Jail for investigation of three counts of aggravated assault resulting in serious injury, discharge of a firearm, shooting in the direction of a person, and being a restricted person in possession of a weapon.

Cervantez told police he was walking past Smith's, 4065 S. Redwood, when "he nearly dropped the firearm and the weapon fired, going through his leg and striking the bystanders," according to a Salt Lake County Jail report.

The shot hit Cervantez in his leg near his front pocket area, Vainuku said.

Why Cervantez had a gun and what he was doing to cause it to go off are all part of the ongoing investigation, Vainuku said.

Two women and a 3-year-old girl were injured. Initially, police believed — based on witness accounts — that Cervantez had opened fire on the shoppers as they walked out of the store. Later, they determined that the three were injured by bullet fragments from the single shot to Cervantez's leg.

Hugo Padilla, who was with his wife and young daughter, Esmeralda, when they were injured by the fragments, said Wednesday that their injuries were minor. They were released from the hospital that night.

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After the shooting, Cervantez ran across Redwood Road to a nearby apartment complex. An intense manhunt ended about three hours later when police found him at Shadowbrook Apartments, 3852 S. 1845 West. Cervantez was seen being carried away from the apartment complex on a stretcher and was taken to a hospital.

"Rufino has a substantial criminal background, including multiple felony convictions, restricting his ability to legally possess firearms," the report states.

Vainuku said many of Cervantez's felony convictions are from out of state.