A statewide effort to apprehend the male suspect wanted in connection with a violent homicide in Murray climaxed late Monday night near Helper.
After barricading himself inside a vehicle for more than four hours on July 30, the 36-year-old subject pointed a nine millimeter handgun to his head and pulled the semi-automatic's trigger, confirmed Price Police Lt. Ed Shook during an interview Tuesday.
The homicide suspect, Kent D. Kettle, died from the self-inflicted wound on July 31 at 2:12 a.m. at the University of Utah Medical Center in Salt Lake City. Identification papers listed American Fork as the dead man's city of residence.
Discussing the events leading to the armed standoff, Shook indicated that Murray criminal investigators issued a statewide attempt to locate the suspect following a homicide that occurred in a Gart retail store parking on 900 East in Murray.
Driving the Pontiac, Kettle allegedly chased a male acquaintance of his estranged wife to the parking lot, shot the man and ran over the victim with a vehicle before fleeing the Salt Lake Valley homicide scene.
On July 30, a local attempt to locate broadcast alerted Carbon County law enforcement agencies that Kettle had purportedly been sighted in Ferron at approximately 5:14 p.m. The homicide suspect apparently had personal ties in the Emery County area, added the police lieutenant.
A second local public safety broadcast advised authorities that the subject had apparently called his estranged wife from a pay phone in the Price area.
Local law enforcement officers responded to the dispatch and started checking phone locations within the city.
Officer Chad Feichko subsequently spotted the suspect vehicle at the east Price interchange and radioed Sgt. Kevin Drolc, explained Shook.
Assuming command of the incident, the Price police sergeant instructed Feichko to follow the Pontiac and keep the Grand Prix under surveillance until backup assistance arrived.
In addition, Drolc contacted Chief George Zamantakis and arranged to have Helper officers prepared to place road spikes across the highway in the event the subject refused to stop.
At 7:06 p.m., the patrol cars traveling behind Kettle activated the overhead lights and sirens, then the suspect vehicle "rabbitted," continued Shook.
While the patrol cars pursued Kettle, Helper police laid the spikes on the highway at Martin.
The speeding Grand Prix hit the spikes and veered into the guardrail before finally coming to a halt near the railroad overpass at 7:10 p.m.
Local authorities promptly surrounded the disabled Pontiac, assuming positions of safety throughout the tense four-hour armed standoff situation.
In addition, authorities blocked motorists on the highway and closed the railroad tracks in the area.
"Our primary concern was to protect the safety of the public, the officers and the suspect," pointed out Shook
Participating law enforcement agencies included Price, Helper and Wellington police departments, the Carbon County Sheriff's Office, Utah Highway Patrol and the United States Bureau of Land Management.
The Utah Department of Transportation dispatched vehicles equipped with floodlights to aid the massive law enforcement effort.
Trained in certain sniper tactical operations, Price Police Officer Bill Barnes monitored Kettle's actions via a high-powered rifle scope throughout the duration of the standoff.
Although Kettle waived the gun in the direction of law enforcement authorities, the homicide suspect fired no bullets at the officers.
"Pulling the trigger is only a small, but important part, of being a law enforcement sniper," explained Shook. "Barnes used the long lens to observe the suspect relay Kettle's actions to the officers maintaining position of safety at the scene."
"The barricaded suspect went through periods of being quite animated and then became quiet," revealed Shook. "Several times, the suspect pointed the weapon at his head and at the officers."
Local authorities contacted the Utah Department of Public Safety and a combined emergency response team from Salt Lake as well as two Murray police detectives responded to assist with the incident.
"Our goal was to contain the scene and contain the situation until highly trained specialists could arrive," indicated Shook. "Under the leadership of Drolc and the professional coordination of the dispatchers, we were able to do exactly that."
Upon arriving at the scene, Price Chief Aleck Shilaos attempted to negotiate a non-violent resolution to the volatile situation for several hours, pointed out Shook. Officer Dave Cartwright relieved Shilaos and continued efforts to convince the barricaded suspect to surrender to authorities, but to no avail.
The sound of the self-inflicted gunshot exploded from Kettle's disabled automobile at approximately 11:22 p.m. on July 30.
"The Salt Lake team provided excellent medical support for the victim until he could be transported to Castleview Hospital," pointed out Shook.
An air medical helicopter transported the homicide suspect from Castleview to the university medical center, where the man died as a result of the head wound early Tuesday morning.
Investigators remained at the site for approximately one hour to documented the scene, added the Price police lieutenant. Law enforcement personnel searched Kettle's vehicle and recovered the suspected homicide-suicide weapon along with a second fully loaded clip of ammunition for the handgun.
In addition, local law enforcement officers discovered a tape recording made by Kettle inside the Pontiac and evidence indicating the possibility that illicit drug use may have been involved in the barricaded subject incident, concluded Shook.