Unsealed documents reveal more details on Juab County shootout, manhunt

vames Klein
James Klein - Photo: Millard County Sheriff's Office

JUAB COUNTY, Aug. 20, 2021 (Gephardt Daily) — A complaint was unsealed Thursday against James Howard Klein, the suspect arrested in May after a Juab County manhunt spurred by the theft of a deputy’s vehicle, shots fired at law enforcement officers, and an attempted carjacking and shooting of a passenger.

The newly unsealed document says Klein, 34, faces federal charges of:

  • Possession of methamphetamine with intent to distribute
  • Two counts of possession of a firearm in furtherance of a narcotics trafficking offense
  • Carjacking
  • Discharge of firearm during and in relation to crime of violence
  • Two counts of felon in possession of firearm

Klein’s probable cause statement in the Federal case says that on May 19 of this year, officers tried to stop him for speeding, and Klein attempted to flee but high-centered his vehicle while exiting Interstate 15.

Officers decided to search the vehicle for illegal narcotics and placed Klein in a patrol vehicle. Once alone in the deputy’s vehicle, Klein is accused of moving into the driver’s seat and speeding away, with the officer’s K-9 still in the back.

“Klein sped down I-15 until he reached the next exit at milepost 202, which was the
entry to Yuba Reservoir Lake. Klein took this exit and drove up the off ramp, failing to
negotiate a right turn and high-centered the Juab County Deputy’s vehicle off the shoulder on Old Yuba Dam Road. At this point, this vehicle had left the roadway and was unable to continue, as it was stuck on the north side of Old Yuba Dam Road.”

The other officers at the scene from Utah Highway Patrol “followed with lights and sirens signaling Klein to stop his vehicle. They arrived at the same off ramp and parked below the Juab County Deputy’s vehicle stolen by Klein, between 50 and 100 feet away.

“At this point, KLEIN exited the law enforcement vehicle and was able to gain access to one of the officer’s rifles that had been secured in that vehicle,” the court document says.

The troopers ordered Klein to exit the vehicle, and “Klein began to shoot at the UHP officers. UHP troopers engaged Klein and returned fire with their weapons. Klein shot numerous times at the UHP troopers and hit at least one of their UHP trooper vehicles with the Colt Defense 5.56 rifle he used,” the statement says.

A husband and wife in an SUV with Nevada plates drove by at the time, heading from Yuba Lake Reservoir toward Interstate 15. The woman slowed down to see if help was needed.

“Klein flagged down their white Ford Escape while holding the Colt Defense 5.56 rifle and told them he wanted their car,” the probable cause statement says. “Klein brandished his firearm into their vehicle, at which point the (male) passenger pushed the rifle away from the (female) driver’s head. Specifically, Klein stuck the barrel of the rifle inside the front passenger window and pointed the rifle barrel at the driver’s head.

“Klein stated to the vehicle occupants that he would shoot them if they didn’t give him a ride. The passenger grabbed the barrel of the rifle and pushed it away from his wife’s head. At that point, Klein discharged the firearm into center dashboard of the white Ford Escape between the driver and the passenger.”

The airbags deployed, causing the vehicle’s ONSTAR system to activate, temporarily disabling the SUV.

Klein demanded the driver put the car into park so it could be restarted.

“Klein opened the door of the vehicle, again demanding a ride and stating he would shoot the driver and passenger if they did not comply,” the probable cause statement says.

The driver was able to restart the car, and sped away from Klein, “at which point Klein shot at the vehicle several times. One of Klein’s shots hit the passenger in the leg,” causing serious damage requiring medical personnel to apply quick-clot powder and a tourniquet to his right leg and transport him to a hospital to repair the damage, the statement says.

Klein returned to the vehicle stolen from the deputy, the statement says.

“He then continued to engage the UHP troopers in a gun battle for several minutes. At one point during the exchange of gun fire with Klein, one of the UHP troopers hit Klein in the leg.”

Klein slid under the vehicle, then down an embankment and into a culvert under I-15, then toward a nearby river in an attempt to hide, the statement says. A lengthy search began.

“Ultimately, law enforcement found Klein with his shirt off, covered in mud for concealment, barely below the river on an embankment. The Colt Defense 5.56 rifle he had stolen from the Deputy’s vehicle was underneath him. He was taken into custody.”

It was later discovered that in March of 2020, Klein was charged with felony assault after the alleged exchange of 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 on April 6, 2021.

Court records show Klein had previous felony drug convictions dating back to 2013. He was also convicted of being a restricted person in possession of a firearm.

Gephardt Daily will have more information on this case as it develops.

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