Police radio recording from American Fork shootings released

SuAnn Newell Sands. Photo Courtesy: GoFundMe

AMERICAN FORK, Utah, Dec. 12, 2016 (Gephardt Daily) — Officials have released a dramatic police recording and 911 calls from the night they say a man pursued, shot and killed his estranged girlfriend in American Fork before he died in a hail of gunfire.

SueAnn Newell Sands, 39, of American Fork, and former boyfriend James Dean Smith, 33, of Orem, both died in the Dec. 4 incident.

Police became aware of the incident at 7:26 p.m. when Utah Valley dispatchers received a 911 call from Sands, who screamed that her car was being shot at while she was in the Walmart parking lot.

When police arrived, they found the gravely wounded Sands inside a bullet-riddled Volkswagen. Sands had a gunshot wound to the head, and died at the scene.

Eight minutes later, police spotted a silver Chevy Tahoe, driven by Smith, in the parking lot of the Gordman’s store, southeast of the Walmart.

He led officers on a brief high-speed chase before screeching to a stop in the parking lot of the nearby Cinemark Theater.

Investigators said three officers — one from American Fork, one from Lehi, and one from the Utah County Sheriff’s Office — confronted Smith as he brandished a pistol. When he refused orders to drop his weapon, all three officers opened fire.

Smith was mortally wounded and died at the scene. It’s not yet clear whether he was killed by police gunfire or he shot himself.

The police radio recording is 11 minutes and 55 seconds long and follows police officers from around Utah County communicating with a 911 operator, from the time that Sands’ first 911 call comes in to the time Smith is wounded and CPR is being administered.

“We’ve got a woman screaming on 911, she’s really hard to understand, she’s not responding to any questions, she’s just screaming hysterically,” an officer says at the beginning of the recording.

“She’s called a couple of times, she’s yelling something about Walmart, then disconnecting again.” The officer goes on to say of Sands: “We’ve got an individual down, I don’t know if there’s gunshots or not… advise medical, I’m not getting a pulse, may be echo (dead).”

During the 911 calls that came in from concerned citizens, all of the callers report the suspect ramming the victim’s car, followed by gunshots.

The first caller says, in part: “So I was coming into Walmart and there’s this SUV facing this green Bug, and he started speeding up towards her and hitting the back of her car, and he hit her so she went sideways and he went into the side of her and then we started hearing shots, so I don’t know if it was tires popping….” She goes on to explain where the SUV went.

A second called follows the SUV until police take over the pursuit. She then goes back to the victim’s vehicle, and says of Sands: “I’m sure she’s extremely hurt if not dead.”

A statement released last Dec. 5 by Lt. Gregg Ludlow of the American Fork Police Department said Sands had been granted a temporary protective order against Smith. It was served on Nov. 20.

The Utah County’s Attorney’s Office will oversee the investigation by way of the Officer Involved Shooting Protocol Team.

Parallel investigations will be conducted by the American Fork Police Department, the Lehi Police Department, and the Utah County Sheriff’s Office.

Sands leaves behind an 11-month-old daughter. Funeral services for Sands will take place on Tuesday at 11 a.m. at Sundberg-Olpin Mortuary at 495 State St., Orem, and a viewing will be held from 9:30-10:30 a.m. prior to services.

A GoFundMe page has been set up to assist with funeral expenses.

First 911 call:

Second 911 call:

Third 911 call:


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