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October 01, 2007
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Retired Utah officer leads police to escapees

By Nathan C. Gonzalez and Russ Rizzo
The Salt Lake Tribune

ROCK SPRINGS, Wyo. - A pair of escaped convicts chose the wrong home to break into last night.

The 79-year-old man who returned from a party Saturday evening to find the killers inside his summer home is a retired Salt Lake City police officer whose efforts lead to their capture.

Utah Department of Corrections Director Tom Patterson said Danny Martin Gallegos, 49, and Juan Carlos "Blue" Diaz-Arevalo, 27, smashed a window and gained entry to the home of Bill Johnson about 15 miles southwest of Manila.
 
The pair grabbed Johnson at about 7:30 p.m., binding his hands and feet with duct tape, Patterson said. Gallegos and Diaz-Arevalo then stole Johnson's Ford Explorer and fled the home.

After about an hour, Johnson was able to free himself to the point he was able to hobble outside, Patterson said. He went outside into the blowing snow to find help in a passing motorist who called 911 about 9:30 p.m.

"Mr. Johnson's a hero," Patterson said. "Obviously he's not as young as he once was, but he's got a lot of fortitude and a lot of courage."

Johnson told police his vehicle had three firearms inside, including a .38-caliber revolver, a .22-caliber handgun and a rifle, said Detective Dick Blust of the Sweetwater County, Wyo. Sheriff's Office.

Eight minutes after the 911 call was placed, a patrol officer spotted the SUV on Interstate 80, and a chase ensued at speeds in excess of 100 mph, police said. A spike strip was used to disable the vehicle's tires.

An officer shot Gallegos after he exited the passenger's side of the vehicle and turned toward police with the rifle, Blust said. Police did not shoot at Diaz-Arevalo, who was armed with the .38-caliber revolver, because there were several residences nearby, he said.

Diaz-Arevalo eventually dropped the gun as he attempted to run from the scene and was apprehended shortly after, authorities said. All three weapons were later recovered and only one shot was fired.

Blust said Diaz-Arevalo has refused to speak with investigators since his capture.

"He has been 100 percent non-cooperative," Blust said. "He has not so much as uttered a word."

Gallegos was flown in critical condition from a hospital in Rock Springs, to University Hospital in Salt Lake City about 3:30 a.m. today with a gunshot wound to the stomach, said Jack Ford, a DOC spokesman.

Aside from the gunshot wound, Gallegos suffered an injured foot and thumb, and is unconscious, Ford said. Gallegos is under guard at the hospital today, he said.

Diaz-Arevalo remains under close watch at the Sweetwater County Jail and will likely remain there until he goes before a judge tomorrow for extradition, Ford said. Gallegos must also face a judge in Wyoming before returning to Utah.

In addition to federal charges of flight to avoid prosecution, Diaz-Arevalo and Gallegos will likely face kidnapping charges for apprehending Johnson, Ford said. The retired police officer may receive the $20,000 reward that had been offered for leading authorities to Diaz-Arevalo and Gallegos, said Ford.

Copyright 2007 Salt Lake Tribune

Full story: Retired Utah officer leads police to escapees






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