08/13/2007

Utah officer captures escaped inmate

By Ben Winslow
Deseret Morning News
 
GARFIELD COUNTY, Utah A man who escaped from the Garfield County Jail and led law enforcement officers on a chase is back in prison.

Garfield County sheriff's deputies said Tam Nguyen, 30, was arrested about 12:45 a.m. Saturday by police in the town of Orderville.

"He was getting a drink from a hose in somebody's back yard," said sheriff's spokeswoman Becki Bronson. "He was spotted by the homeowner, who confronted Nguyen and said, 'What are you doing?"'

The homeowner called the Kane County Sheriff's Office and deputies arrested the man a short time later. He was about three miles from where he abandoned a stolen car in Glendale, deputies said.

The Garfield County Sheriff's Office said Nguyen was a state inmate being housed at the jail in Panguitch and was washing cars Friday afternoon. The jail provides a car wash service for county residents, with inmates doing the work.

Deputies said Nguyen hid inside the luggage compartment of a school bus as it was being cleaned by inmates Friday afternoon. The bus driver discovered Nguyen, who then fled and stole a car that had keys in it.

After a chase on state Route 89, deputies said Nguyen abandoned the car near Glendale, an area of Garfield County with a few cabins in mountainous terrain. The Kane County Sheriff's Department, the Cedar City Police Department, Adult Probation and Parole and the Utah Highway Patrol were involved. The Utah Department of Public Safety sent its helicopter to assist in the search Friday night. The Utah Department of Corrections sent its SWAT team from Gunnison.

Bronson said state corrections officers took Nguyen back to prison rather than back to the county jail.

Nguyen was serving time for a 1995 manslaughter conviction. According to Deseret Morning News accounts from the time, a jury convicted the Vietnamese immigrant of shooting Chet Harris in the head as he crawled down a Salt Lake City alley. Harris was trying to escape Nguyen, who had already shot him in the throat.

Nguyen, who was 16 at the time, claimed Harris had made sexual advances toward him earlier in the evening. He returned with his friend, and a gun, and shot Harris in the throat. Prosecutors said Nguyen's friend, Taun Ly, fired the fatal shot. Yet news accounts say he was never charged because Nguyen refused to testify against Ly. E-mail: bwinslow@desnews.com 

Copyright 2007 The Deseret Morning News

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