CRIME, POLICE + COURTS

Hefty charges likely for suspect in Juab highway shooting, attorney says

May 20, 2021, 5:31 PM | Updated: Dec 30, 2022, 11:21 am
juab freeway shooting charges...
Utah Highway Patrol troopers and deputies from Juab and Millard Counties shut down I-15 while they searched for James Klein on Wednesday. Photo: KSL TV

SALT LAKE CITY — A man facing felony charges out of Minnesota, accused of firing shots at police officers there, could face even harsher charges in Utah after a Juab County freeway shooting. 

James Klein, a suspect facing felony assault charges in Minnesota stemming from a shooting involving police in a Walmart parking lot, allegedly stole a deputy’s truck Wednesday with a rifle and police dog inside, exchanged gunfire with police, wounded a civilian bystander in the leg and shut down Interstate 15 in Juab County.

After investigators said he tried to hide from police in the Sevier River, Klein is now in custody.

From Minnesota to Utah

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

Ask the expert

Attorney Greg Skordas joined Dave Noriega and Debbie Dujanovic to discuss how the suspect managed to end up in Utah, firing on police, after a shootout with cops in Minnesota.

“Sadly, he should not be out,” Skordas said. “He should have been incarcerated and should have been in custody, but every system has to look at its own cases individually. People are entitled to bail. They’re entitled to the presumption of innocence.”

“Can you give us an idea? What does it take for a judge to say, ‘You know what, you’re a danger. You don’t get bail,'” Dave asked.

“Well you have to look at the nature of the charges that were pending against him in the other state and his prior criminal history,” Skordas said. “Debbie has found that they’re both significant. So I’m assuming his bail had to be pretty high.

“But he posted it or he was at least released on some circumstance, some conditions. And he violated that. He should have been incarcerated, he should be in jail — he probably will be now for a very, very long time,” Skordas said.

Serious charges likely

“We know there was a bystander who was shot so to me, there’s one attempted murder charge,” Debbie said. “Cops were shot out. To me, there’s a couple of other attempted murder charges. The canine was in the back of that canine truck that he stole. This all unfolded after a traffic stop, so there’s another charge for evading police. Tell me this guy is not going to be able to bail out of jail once a Utah judge gets a hold of him.”

“There is no way, Debbie,” Skordas said. “There is no way that this man will be released from jail anytime soon, given everything that you’ve described: the theft of the police car, the attempted murder of several police officers, and he actually commandeered not only the police canine unit, but apparently one of the police weapons is what he used. We’re not clear on that, but it looks like he used an assault weapon that was in the police car that he stole.”

“Is there such thing as a canine kidnapping?” Dave asked. “Because if you jump in a car and there’s a baby on board, that’s bad news if you’re trying to steal a car, but I would imagine there’s got to be something similar.”

“The theft of the police car, the theft of the police weapons, the theft of the police canine. All of those are significant, but the firing on the police officers — if he did that — is an attempted murder of a police officer. That’s a big-ticket item. That’s a life imprisonment charge or at least a five to life,” Skordas said.

Related:

Holladay shooting justified, but prosecutor still “troubled”

Dave & Dujanovic can be heard weekdays from 9 a.m. to noon. on KSL NewsRadio. Users can find the show on the KSL NewsRadio website and app, a.s well as Apple Podcasts and Google Play. 

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