JUAB COUNTY, Utah, May 20, 2021 (Gephardt Daily) — An out-of-state man with a violent criminal past was arrested in Juab County Wednesday after commandeering a sheriff’s vehicle during an I-15 traffic stop, then exchanging gunfire with Utah Highway Patrol troopers following a brief chase.
According to Juab County Sheriff Doug Anderson, the suspect, James Klein, 34, of Minnesota, was first pulled over by two sheriff deputies during a traffic stop on I-15 near mile marker 202, north of Scipio, Wednesday afternoon. What prompted the stop was not immediately clear.
During the initial traffic stop, Klein managed to escape, stealing the cruiser the deputies were patrolling in, and leaving them at the side of the highway.
Klein also drove off with a police K-9 in the back of the deputies’ cruiser. The dog was ultimately recovered safely.
A couple of miles up the highway, Klein encountered two UHP troopers and there was an exchange of gunfire. Investigators said Klein allegedly used an AR-15 he found in the sheriff’s cruiser to fire on the troopers.
A passing motorist was wounded in the shooting, as was Klein, who ended up eluding police on foot before being found hours later hiding near the Sevier River, Anderson said.
Both Klein and the injured driver were taken to a local hospital with what were believed to be non-life threatening injuries.
A search of court records reveals Klein is no stranger to law enforcement.
In March 2020 he was charged with felony assault charges after exchanging gunfire with police in a Minneapolis parking lot. He was being investigated for shoplifting at the time and ended up being wounded in the hand and leg. Klein made bail on those charges April 6, 2021.
Court records show Klein had previous felony drug convictions dating back to 2013. He was also convicted for being a restricted person in possession of a firearm.
I-15 was closed for hours in both directions during Wednesday’s incident.
Gephardt Daily will update the story as more information becomes available.