The Associated Press
MOAB, Utah — Law officers hunting a gunman who critically wounded a Utah park ranger named a person of interest in the case as they prepared for a third day of searching an eastern Utah canyon.
Lance Leeroy Arellano, 40, was identified as "possibly being involved in the shooting" of Brody Young outside of Moab, the Grand County Sheriff's Department said in a statement late Sunday night. Young, 34, remains in critical but stable condition.
The statement did not say if Arellano and the man being hunted were the same person, but the Salt Lake Tribune reported from the scene that authorities said he is the suspect.
On Sunday, more than 160 officers from around the state spent a second day searching an area near the Colorado River, 20 miles southwest of Moab. The region is famous for red rock canyons and natural arch formations.
The search near Dead Horse State Park began after Young was shot three times Friday night while patrolling the popular Poison Spider Mesa Trail.
Arellano's 1999 silver Pontiac Grand Am was spotted parked in the brush hours later several miles south of the shooting site but not far from the canyon where authorities are focusing their search, Grand County Sheriff Jim Nyland said.
The search area consisted of 15 square miles of rugged terrain that authorities say has likely given the gunman the "upper hand" in avoiding capture, Nyland said. Three helicopters were included in the search Sunday and authorities were also searching freight cars along an area railroad line.
"He pretty much knows where we are at all times because of the number of people we have," Nyland said at a press conference.
Sunday night, authorities scaled back operations for the second night in a row, leaving about 20 officers in the search area until morning, when the hunt would resume in full force, according to a report by KSL-TV.
Nyland said he thinks Arellano is still in the contained search area. "We feel there's not any possible way for him to leave the area without us knowing."
On Saturday, authorities tracked the man's footprints in a canyon along the Colorado River, recovering his rifle, backpack and a tattered, bloody T-shirt.
"We consider this individual armed and dangerous. As we're tracking him we have to keep that in mind — the security of the trackers — and we're having to move pretty slow," Nyland said.
Authorities found a new set of footprints they were tracking on Sunday before sunset.
Young stopped a vehicle at the trailhead, and gunfire was exchanged between him and the driver, said parks spokeswoman Deena Loyola. It was not clear what sparked the violence, and Nyland said authorities have not yet been able to interview Young.
Nyland had told The Associated Press that the ranger had been shot in the arm, leg and the stomach area, and he underwent surgery at St. Mary's Hospital in Grand Junction. The hospital declined to comment. The ranger is married with three children.
The statement on the person of interest said Arellano has a criminal history that includes assault and drug charges and may be armed, dangerous and seeking medical help.
Nyland told the Tribune that investigators have spoken to Arellano's family. "The information we're getting is he's not really a backcountry, hard-core outdoorsman."
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The Poison Spider Mesa trail to the south of Moab is among Utah's best-known biking runs with enthusiasts calling it an especially challenging but scenic loop that rises more than 1,000 feet into the surrounding countryside.