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Utah man accused of shooting at cops released from state hospital

Published December 10, 2013 6:01 pm

Courts • Evaluators say Alex Opmanis, of Provo, is incompetent and likely never will be able to stand trial.
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A Provo man accused of sparking a shootout with Utah County police officials last year will be released from custody after mental health evaluators reported he is not competent for trial and likely never will be.

Alex Opmanis, 21, is accused of opening fire on police serving a no-knock search warrant for marijuana distribution at his Provo apartment on Nov. 19, 2012.

He is charged in 4th District Court with second-degree felony counts of attempted murder and possession of a controlled substance with intent to distribute in a drug-free zone; as well as third-degree felony illegal possession of a weapon; and misdemeanor possession of drug paraphernalia.

On Tuesday, Deputy Utah County Attorney Mariane O'Bryant asked for Opmanis to be released from the Utah State Hospital after reports from the hospital indicated the man is not competent and is not likely to be restored, according to court records.

However, O'Bryant asked for the case to remain open, and a review hearing was set for January 2015.

O'Bryant said Tuesday afternoon that prosecutors will sometimes dismiss a case at this stage, but she said she didn't feel that was appropriate given the severity of Opmanis' charges.

"Just [because of] the severity of what happened," O'Bryant said. "The potential that could have happened, had they not gone the way they did. It's a serious case."

Opmanis' mother, Deborah Preste, told the Salt Lake Tribune in September that her son was assaulted when he was 16 years old, and suffered brain damage. He now has the mental capacity of a 10-year-old, she said, and did not belong at the state hospital because he's not mentally ill.

Opmanis had been housed at the Utah State Hospital since March, after he was found not competent to stand trial on charges. He had previously been at the Utah County jail since his November arrest.

Utah County Sheriff's authorities allege that on Nov. 19, 2012, they announced their presence and used a ram to attempt to open the locked front door of Opmanis' home, according to a probable cause statement. The ram made a hole, but failed to open the door because it was locked.

When the door didn't open, a second officer started to kick and push the door while continuing to announce the officers' presence, according to court documents.

Opmanis allegedly fired a gun several times through the front door while the officer was kicking it. Police said he admitted to firing four rounds from a .22-caliber revolver at the front door because he thought it was a group of Polynesian males trying to force their way inside.

Officers returned fire, and eventually made their way through a back door of Opmanis' home. Opmanis told police that when he realized it was officers at his door, he dropped his gun and surrendered.

No officers were hit, but police say several suffered injuries to their arms and faces when they were struck by BBs from the shots fired or debris from the door.

Preste said her son had loaded the gun with "snake shots," intended to spray BBs, but not fatally injure a person. She said he was fearful because he had been threatened by members of a Polynesian gang who were upset with an acquaintance of Opmanis.







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