CRIME

Suspect accused of stealing deputy’s truck, I-15 shootout in Juab County

May 19, 2021, 10:24 PM | Updated: May 20, 2021, 10:58 am
Utah cops Minnesota...
Juab County Sheriff Doug Anderson briefs reporters after the end of a shutdown of I-15 caused by the pursuit of a man who stole a deputy's truck. Photo: Paul Nelson, KSL NewsRadio

JUAB COUNTY, Utah — A man is in custody after investigators say he stole a deputy’s truck and weapon, exchanged gunfire with law enforcement on I-15 Wednesday evening in Juab County, and struck at least one passerby.

Now, we know that suspect faces charges in Minnesota in a different shooting involving shots fired at police. 

Freeway shutdown, chaos in Juab County

Utah Highway Patrol shut down the freeway in Juab County for hours as they and Juab County deputies tried to arrest the suspect. 

 

According to Lt. Nick Street with Utah Highway Patrol, the gunfire injured one victim, a civilian bystander. Crews took that person to the hospital by helicopter with a gunshot wound to the leg. They did not specify the severity of the injury, but described the victim as stable.

Suspect accused of stealing Juab County deputy’s truck

Investigators allege the suspect, James Klein, stole a Juab County Sheriff’s Department patrol vehicle and a deputy’s rifle. They accused him of fleeing the scene, after which, both Juab County and UHP troopers pursued him. 

A Juab County Sheriff’s deputy pulled over the suspect north of Scipio with two UHP troopers backing him.  However, Juab County Sheriff Doug Anderson says things went awry.

“The suspect they had detained was able to steal the deputy’s truck,” Anderson said. 

Klein reportedly took the troopers on a chase that lasted a few miles, but he eventually crashed on the Yuba State Park offramp.  UHP Colonel Michael Rapich says Klein brought out the deputy’s rifle and opened fire.

“The suspect came out of that vehicle, produced a firearm and there was an exchange of gunfire between the suspect and our two troopers who were on scene, at the time,” Rapich said. 

Bystander wounded by gunfire

Those shots reportedly caught a bystander in the crossfire.

“During that exchange of gunfire, there was a civilian that was injured,” Rapich said.

Again, we don’t know the civilian’s condition, but investigators said that person went to the hospital by helicopter. 

Meanwhile, Klein reportedly headed southwest. Since troopers and deputies could not say for sure where Klein went, Anderson says they shut down I-15 for hours.  Eventually, Anderson said they found him hiding from police in the Sevier River.

“A multi-agency critical incident system was put in place and a command was set up to apprehend this guy,” Anderson said.  “A perimeter was set up and it involved a freeway closure and an extensive manhunt.”

Criminal record in Minnesota

Thursday, attention on Klein turned to his criminal record. According to Minnesota court records, Klein faces felony assault charges from a year ago over a shooting in a Walmart parking lot. 

Hennepin County prosecutors say Klein fired at officers in that parking lot, in Brooklyn Park, Minnesota, before they fired shots back at him. In addition to assault, he faces charges of use of deadly force against a peace officer, and one count of possession of ammunition or a firearm. 

Before that, court records show Klein was sentenced in 2013 for drug, weapons and counterfeiting currency offenses. He also had two earlier drug possession convictions and one for fleeing police. 

It was not immediately clear why he was allowed to be out on bail, or to come to Utah. 

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Suspect accused of stealing deputy’s truck, I-15 shootout in Juab County