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Prosecutor: Utah teen 'active participant' in cop shootings

Published February 19, 2014 7:14 pm

Charges • Meagan Grunwald faces multiple felony counts as an accomplice in the shootings and officer's death.
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Spanish Fork • Seventeen-year-old Meagan Dakota Grunwald was not simply "along for the ride" during a two-county shooting spree and chase, during which she drove while her boyfriend allegedly shot and killed one officer and seriously injured another, Utah County Attorney Tim Taylor said during a Wednesday press conference.

She was an "active participant" in the alleged crimes, Taylor said.

While 27-year-old Jose Angel Garcia-Jauregui is accused of pulling the trigger, prosecutors claim the teen girl is just as responsible for the death of Utah County Attorney Sgt. Cory Wride for allegedly driving her truck during the Jan. 30 shooting spree.

"We've charged her with regards to aiding and abetting, and being an accessory to the crime," Taylor said. "We know she's 17, she's young, but she is absolutely as culpable under Utah law as he is."

Grunwald, of Draper, was charged Tuesday as an adult in 4th District Court with aggravated murder, a first-degree felony. Taylor said her case is not eligible for the death penalty because she is a minor.

Thirteen other charges were filed against the teen, including two counts of felony discharge of a firearm, two counts of attempted aggravated murder, and aggravated robbery — all first-degree felonies — along with charges of felony obstructing justice, failure to respond to an officer, possession or use of a controlled substance and lesser charges of felony discharge of a firearm, and misdemeanor criminal mischief and violation of operator duties after an accident.

Though the alleged crime spree spanned both Utah and Juab counties, Taylor said Wednesday that charges will only be filed in Utah County.

Deputy Juab County Attorney AnnMarie Howard said Wednesday that attorneys from her office will work alongside Utah County prosecutors in the case.

"We were able to look back at the information Utah County had, and look at [Grunwald's] actions and her behaviors," Howard said. "We fully believe she was complicit in her behavior."

Grunwald is scheduled to make an initial appearance on Monday at the Provo courthouse. She is being held at the Salt Lake County jail on $1 million cash-only bail.

The teen is being represented by the Utah County Public Defender's Office, who did not immediately return phone calls for comment on Wednesday.

Garcia-Jauregui died at a hospital on Jan. 31, the day after he allegedly shot and killed Wride and injured Utah County Deputy Greg Sherwood.

The deadly shooting spree began in Utah County at about 1 p.m. on Jan. 30.

Wride had stopped his patrol car to check on a pulled-over Toyota Tundra pickup truck with flashers blinking on State Road 73 between Eagle Mountain and Cedar Fort. He spoke with Garcia-Jauregui and Grunwald, who was driving the truck.

Grunwald gave the sergeant her driver's license, but Garcia-Jauregui gave Wride a false name. As Wride returned to his car and began searching police databases for information about Garcia-Jauregui, Grunwald put the truck in drive, but left her foot on the brake, according to court documents, which rely in part on the officer's dash cam video.

About four minutes after Grunwald put the vehicle into drive, Garcia-Jauregui opened the back sliding window of the truck and began shooting at Wride. He fired seven shots at the sergeant's car, according to police documents. Two rounds struck and killed Wride.

"She left that scene in a hurry," Taylor said Wednesday of Grunwald. "That's an active participant."

Police believe Grunwald was still driving the truck when she fled south and encountered Utah County Sheriff's Deputy Greg Sherwood in Santaquin.

As Sherwood was following the truck in his patrol vehicle, prosecutors allege the teen girl braked suddenly — closing distance between her truck and Sherwood's vehicle — while Garcia-Jauregui fired from the back window of the truck once more. Sherwood was struck once in the head.

Grunwald continued to drive south on Interstate 15, according to prosecutors, when a Utah Highway Patrol trooper attempted to pull over the truck. Again, Garcia-Jauregui fired out the back window of the truck, but the trooper was not hit.

Eventually, Grunwald's truck hit spike strips deployed by officers in Juab County. After the tires were spiked, Garcia-Jauregui allegedly fired toward a semi truck, damaging three tires. As the semi truck's tires were shot out, Grunwald crashed her truck into another vehicle, according to court documents.

Grunwald allegedly continued to drive the vehicle until she reached Main Street in Nephi, where the truck broke down. Garcia-Jauregui and Grunwald then ran from the truck, according to documents, and when two Juab County sheriff's deputies ordered the two to stop, Garcia-Jauregui shot his gun twice toward deputies and continued to flee.

Court documents allege Grunwald then flagged down a Toyota Highlander, and jumped into the passenger side as Garcia-Jauregui fired once more at deputies. Garcia-Jauregui ordered the female driver out the car at gunpoint. The woman barely had time to take her child from the backseat before Garcia-Jauregui sped off in the car with Grunwald in the passenger seat, and continued to drive south, according to court records.

Law enforcement once again laid out spike strips on southbound I-15. Garcia-Jauregui hit the spikes, then drove across the center dividing strip into oncoming traffic, causing a traffic accident. Garcia-Jauregui ran from the stolen Highlander — with Grunwald not far behind — and attempted to car jack the vehicle he had just hit, but that driver sped off.

Garcia-Jauregui then pointed his gun at four Juab County Sheriff's deputies, who all fired toward the man. Garcia-Jauregui was struck once in the head, according to court documents.

According to court documents, as Garcia-Jauregui was being taken into custody, he asked police, "You're not going to let me kiss my girl with my last dying breath?"

For her part, Grunwald was upset at police for wounding Garcia-Jauregui.

"You f—-ing shot him!" she yelled at the officers as she laid on the ground at the officers' command, court documents state.

After Grunwald's arrest her urine tested positive for methamphetamine, according to court records. Inside the Toyota Tundra, which is owned by Grunwald and her mother, investigators found 11 .40-caliber shell casings.

Taylor said Wednesday that investigators are trying to trace where Garcia-Jauregui got the gun. He was a convicted felon, and could not legally buy a firearm.

Garcia-Juaregui was paroled in December 2012 from the Utah State Prison after serving five years of a one-to-15-year sentence for 2008 convictions for attempted murder and aggravated assault.

According to charging documents, Grunwald and Garcia-Jauregui had been living together for several months at the teen's mother's home in Draper. Witnesses told police that the teen is pregnant with Garcia-Jauregui's child. But Taylor said Wednesday that was not the case.

"My understanding is she is not pregnant," he said.

The couple were planning to wed when Grunwald turned 18 in August, according to police witnesses, and were planning to move to Mexico.

A woman who identified herself as Grunwald's grandmother, but who refused to give her name, said Tuesday that Garcia-Jauregui brought considerable conflict into the family.

The woman said she clashed with Grunwald's mother over allowing Garcia-Jauregui to live at the family's home. Both the woman and Grunwald's father wanted Garcia-Jauregui gone, she said, but the teen's mother allowed him to stay.

— Tribune reporter Bob Mims contributed to this story.

jmiller@sltrib.com

Twitter: @jm_miller