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CHARGES AGAINST OFFICER CAST DOUBT ON SHOOTING

A Salina police officer who says he was shot while investigating a suspicious car near I-70 now faces charges that suggest otherwise.

James P. McDonald, a former Department of Corrections sergeant for seven years, was charged Tuesday in 6th District Court with making a false report, a class B misdemeanor; and criminal mischief, a class A misdemeanor.McDonald is the only person named in the charges. And authorities confirm there is no evidence to suggest that anyone else was present at the time of the shooting. Further details about the incident remained unavailable Wednesday. McDonald will appear in court Sept. 5.

The officer is reportedly recuperating with relatives in the Salt Lake area and has an unpublished Salina phone number.

McDonald's report that he was shot in the chest and back as he approached a suspicious-looking car parked off I-70 on Aug. 10 was investigated like any other, according to Delbert Lloyd, who handled the case for the Sevier County sheriff's office.

"By the end of the first day, you have questions. By the second day, you're certain," Lloyd said.

At the time sheriff's officials called off their attempt-to-locate bulletin Aug. 11 for a possible suspect car, they were confident that charges were warranted, Lloyd said.

During the investigation, McDonald had changed his story to one that was even more inconsistent with the evidence, sheriff's officials have said. But investigators have refused to release details about how they believe the officer and his vehicle were shot.

The resulting circumstance is disappointing to the law enforcement community, and not only on the state level, Lloyd said. When an officer is shot in the line of duty, news of the incident travels fast.

The case first garnered statewide attention two weeks ago when word spread that an officer had been shot at a remote off-ramp of I-70 in central Utah. McDonald was found wounded after he radioed for help, and his car was riddled with bullet holes.

Authorities immediately set up roadblocks in the region, and law enforcement agencies statewide listened as bulletins were broadcast for an older-model car, possibly with California license plates.

McDonald, who wore a Kevlar protective vest, was rushed to Sevier Valley Hospital in nearby Richfield, treated and released later that afternoon with only minor injuries, including a bullet-grazed forehead. Law officers initially hailed the incident as proof of the benefits of wearing a bullet-proof vest.