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Sheriff captures suspect in Uintah County shooting

Published March 10, 2012 7:42 pm

Crime • Man allegedly fired more than 10 rounds at deputy, who escaped unharmed.
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The Uintah County sheriff took a Vernal man into custody Saturday afternoon, two days after he allegedly shot at an eastern Utah deputy several times and fled.

"We got him," said Uintah County Undersheriff John Laursen.

Dallas Rowley, 66, was found about 3 p.m. in the Asphalt Wash area near the White River in the southern part of Uintah County. Rowley, had a warrant out for his arrest for attempted homicide of a police officer.

Uintah County Sheriff Jeff Merrell was patrolling the area with the help of the Special Emergency Response Team (SERT) of the Utah Division of Natural Resources, when he saw Rowley's 1999 Chevrolet Suburban.

Merrell kept an eye on the car as he called for back up. But while waiting for other officers, he noticed the car started to move, according to a Uintah County news release.

Merrell blocked the road with his patrol car, and Rowley drove up to him, Laursen said. Merrell held him at gunpoint, and Rowley said he wanted to turn himself in, Laursen said.

"Dallas recognized the sheriff," Laursen said. Rowley was booked into the Uintah County Jail on suspicion of attempted criminal homicide, attempted aggravated murder, and failure to respond to an officer's signal to stop. His bail has been set at $500,000.

Earlier Saturday, Laursen said authorities had scaled back their search efforts and the crew of about 30 personnel has been reduced to about 20 searching by ground by the Book Cliffs.

"It has pretty much turned into a ground search at this time with air support available," Laursen said at the time.

Law enforcement personnel from Uintah County, Colorado, various local agencies and the FBI had been searching for Rowley since the shooting.

The shooting occurred just before 9 p.m. Thursday as a deputy was investigating a report of a suspicious vehicle near State Road 45 and the Book Cliffs, about 10 miles south of Vernal, according to Laursen.

The deputy pulled over Rowley's Suburban in the Red Wash Road area. While talking to the man the deputy smelled alcohol on his breath. The man then drove away and a short chase ensued.

Rowley stopped again on SR 45 near mile marker 20, Laursen said, and fired more than 10 shots using his .223-caliber rifle before fleeing in his vehicle.

The deputy, who was not injured, did not fire any shots before the man fled again.

Laursen said the officer's "fast reflexes" are what "saved his life."

Police believe the deputy was going about 15 miles per hour when he approached the SUV. When the deputy sensed danger, he put the truck in reverse and ducked down while driving backward.

The three bullet holes in the truck's windshield, driver's seat and headrest indicate "he would be dead if he stayed where he was," Laursen said.


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