The March 12 shooting of a robbery suspect on U.S. Highway 6 by a Utah Highway Patrol trooper is believed to be an accident, according to information released by the Carbon County Sheriff's Office on Tuesday.
Reports indicate the shooting occurred near milepost 258 on U.S. 6 on Sunday evening after law enforcement pursued two individuals in a high-speed chase from Green River.
According to Emery County Sheriff Lamar Guymon, the incident began at the Comfort Inn in Green River. Auddie Barnes, the driver of a green and gray Chevrolet Blazer, reportedly stopped at the hotel.
Guymon said the hotel clerk was outside the front entrance and entered the building with Barnes.
Barnes reportedly brandished a weapon and demanded the money in the register, a sum of $245. Reports indicate that armed robbery suspect then left the hotel.
The clerk followed Barnes into the parking lot while calling 911 and gave public safety dispatch a description of the male subject and the SUV.
A passenger inside the vehicle, John Gourno, did not exit the Blazer at the hotel, according to reports.
Both of the occupants traveling inside the SUV were identified by law enforcemement officers as 29-year-old residents of Ohio.
An Emery County sheriff's deputy arrived at the hotel within minutes of the call, said Guymon.
In addition, the public safety dispatch center issued an attempt to locate on a vehicle matching the description.
Reports indicate that the suspects headed east from the hotel. The SUV then purportedly turned west onto Interstate 70, taking the westbound U.S. 6 exit toward Price.
Approximately one mile from the interstate, UHP Trooper Greg Funk spotted the vehicle. The UHP officer ran the plates of the vehicle, which resulted in a report that the vehicle was stolen from Indiana.
Given that the vehicle met the description given in the attempt to locate, and that the plates were listed as stolen, Funk reportedly initiated a traffic stop. According to Guymon, the driver did not stop and engaged the trooper in a high speed chase. Shortly afterward, two other troopers joined the chase along with an Emery County sheriff deputy.
During the chase, the weapon reportedly used in the alleged robbery was thrown from the vehicle. Emery County law enforcement recovered the weapon Tuesday.
While the pursuit continued toward Price, law enforcement prepared to stop the vehicle using spike strips approximately two miles east of Sunnyside Junction. However, before crossing the spike strips, the suspects reportedly stopped.
Five state troopers and two Adult Probation and Parole officers were on the scene, each with weapons drawn, according to Carbon County Sheriff James Cordova, who said the Emery County Sheriff was not yet on the scene, but arrived shortly after the stop.
The ensuing officers stopped behind the suspects and readied for a felony traffic stop, said Cordova. The driver of the vehicle was reportedly ordered out of the vehicle by officers. Barnes complied, exiting the Blazer and walking backwards toward troopers. Cordova said he was cuffed and secured within a vehicle.
At that point, Gourno was ordered to exit the vehicle. The Carbon County sheriff said he complied with the order. While Gourno was walking backwards toward officers, a distance of approximately 20 feet, a shot was reportedly fired by Trooper Ed Bentley from his M-14 rifle.
"With all the facts we have reviewed, it appears the shot was accidental," said Cordova, whose agency investigated the shooting. He said that the investigation was lacking one interview on Wednesday, but that video tapes from troopers' vehicles and several interviews had been reviewed. Cordova will submit the final results of the investigation to the Carbon County attorney for review.
Gourno was treated at Castleview Hospital in Price and flown by helicopter to the University of Utah Medical Center. He is reported to be in stable condition.
Barnes was initially detained at the Carbon County jail, but was later booked into jail in Emery County. Law enforcement officials indicated that the both individuals have extensive criminal histories.
An internal investigation is being performed by the Department of Public Safety. Meanwhile, Bentley is on paid administrative leave pending the results of the investigations into the shooting.
Guymon said that as of Wednesday morning, there was no indication that the two individuals taken into custody were involved in any crimes between Indiana, where the alleged vehicle theft occurred, and Green River. However, he said that it is not ruled out at this point.