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An extra pair of plastic handcuffs might have saved a Utah State Prison officer from being shot and killed three years ago during a routine visit to a Salt Lake City orthopedic clinic with an inmate.
Prisoner Curtis Michael Allgier, 30, was completely unrestrained when he allegedly overpowered Officer Stephen Anderson, 60, and killed him with his own gun June 25, 2007, according to testimony Tuesday during a 3rd District Court preliminary hearing.
The incident would lead to major changes in how inmates are taken for medical appointments.
University Hospital MRI technician Scott Jenack testified Allgier was wearing metal handcuffs and leg shackles when he arrived at the clinic for a scan of his lower back at 7 a.m.
As usual in preparing inmates for an MRI, Anderson removed the metal restraints and substituted plastic "flex cuffs" to bind Allgier's hands, Jenack testified. But Anderson forgot Allgier was wearing a jumpsuit with metal snaps.
Jenack said he handed Anderson a hospital gown, then asked the officer if he needed to get another set of plastic restraints from his vehicle.
Anderson gave him "a look of annoyance," but made no reply as he returned with Allgier to the changing room, Jenack testified.
When Anderson and Allgier returned to the MRI room, Allgier was not restrained in any way, said Jenack, who added that Anderson must have cut off the other flex cuffs -- which can be used only once -- so Allgier could change into the gown.
After the scan, Allgier and the officer returned to the changing room, where a commotion ensued.
Jenack said he heard chains rattling, chairs slamming into the wall, and a couple of "heavy, heavy blows and a deep grunt," Jenack testified.
He said he immediately went to the front desk and asked the receptionist to call 911 and report trouble with a prisoner. Soon after, Jenack said, he heard two gunshots come from the changing room.
Allgier fled the clinic, and when Jenack and a doctor checked the room they found Anderson dead.
Jenack said that in 2007, inmates came to the clinic escorted by only a single officer. But shortly after Anderson's slaying, Corrections Director Tom Patterson announced that two officers would accompany all inmates on hospital visits and other transports, and three officers would accompany high-risk inmates.
Prison Capt. Larry Benzon testified that Anderson wrote on Allgier's transportation order that day, "gang, possible escape, two-man transport," but Anderson did not request the help of a second officer.
Prison Officer Daniel Jorgensen testified it is prison policy to always have some sort of restraint on a prisoner during transportation, and that transportation officers were usually issued two or three pairs of flex cuffs, along with their weapon, badge, body armor and metal restraints.
Allgier is charged with aggravated murder for allegedly shooting Anderson once in the chest and once in the head.
The two-shot scenario belies Allgier's version of events, as told to a Tribune reporter during a jail interview, that the gun fired accidentally as he and Anderson struggled for control of the weapon.
Prosecutors have said they intend to seek the death penalty for four reasons: Allgier was an inmate; the victim was a peace officer; Allgier shot the victim in order to escape; and Allgier attempted to kill three other people.
After the shooting, Allgier highjacked an SUV from a U. physician outside the clinic, according to charging documents.
Later, while being chased by police, Allgier allegedly tried to run over a sheriff's deputy who was waiting to disable Allgier's stolen vehicle with a tire ripper.
When a rear tire on the SUV went flat, Allgier ran into an Arby's restaurant near 1700 South and Redwood Road, where he tried to kill two patrons, Alejandro Gomez and Eric Fullerton, according to charges. Fullerton, then 59, wrestled the gun from Allgier, who was arrested by police in the restaurant's office.
At the time, Allgier was serving state prison time for burglary and forgery while awaiting federal incarceration for weapons violations. He had previously absconded from parole in August 2001.
Allgier, who has described himself as a "white-power skinhead," claims to be a lifelong member of the white-supremacy gang Aryan Empire Warriors.
The preliminary hearing before Judge Robin Reese is scheduled to last through Friday.